A Special MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
April 26, 2018
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special Homelessness Forum on Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 8:30 a.m., at the Clermont City Center, Clermont, Florida.† Commissioners present at the meeting were:† Leslie Campione, Vice Chairman; Sean Parks; Wendy Breeden; and Josh Blake. County staff present at the meeting were:† Jeff Cole, County Manager; Allison Thall, Interim Manager for the Housing and Community Development Division; Tommy Carpenter, Director of the Office of Emergency Management; and Josh Pearson, Administrative Specialist, Board Support.† Others present at the meeting were: Barbara Wheeler, Director of Mid Florida Homeless Coalition; Rob Hicks, Leesburg Police Chief; B.E. Thompson, Director of Development for LifeStream Behavioral Center; Karen Rogers, Adult Clinical Services Director for LifeStream Behavioral Center; Susan Pourciau, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Homeless Training and Technical Assistance for the Florida Housing Coalition; Gary Tester, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Central Florida; and Steve Smith, President of New Beginnings of Central Florida.
welcome, purpose and overview
Commr. Campione thanked those in the audience for attending, and expressed interest in finding out who was in the audience and what organizations were represented.† She said that there was a homelessness situation in Lake County and surrounding areas, and that the current meeting would focus on Lake County and the needs of its homeless population.† She also mentioned discussing opportunities for addressing some of those needs and the problems of people living in that condition and how it affects communities and businesses as a whole.† She expressed a hope that the current meeting would be a time to find out about existing community programs that some citizens may not be aware of, and that part of Lake Countyís concern may be that services are being provided, but individuals are not being connected to them. †She stated that there were many subject matter experts present at the meeting that work directly with the homeless population and are aware of challenges in that area.† She remarked that there are likely some competing viewpoints regarding the best way to address these issues; however, many individuals have the same goal and are able to see how those different viewpoints can work together.† She said that there are different paths in and out of homelessness, and that some homeless individuals may want to remain so due to issues such as credit, garnished wages or arrest warrants.† She added that some root causes of homelessness are mental illness, substance abuse, affordability of housing and negative financial circumstances.† She said that a difficult situation is when individuals experience chronic homelessness and cycles of mental illness or substance abuse that cannot be addressed.† She stated that a significant recurring debate is that of enabling versus addressing homelessness, and when the humanitarian goal of helping other citizens becomes part of the problem.† She commented that this was an inherent conflict because if basic needs are not addressed, other individuals will attempt to help that person, though this may enable that behavior.† She noted that the audience would hear about the Housing First approach, which is concerned with getting people into housing before providing additional services to help them keep their home and become self-sufficient.† She mentioned the question of if there should be homeless shelters, and the possibility of shelters and the Housing First approach working together if there were sufficient resources and proper practices on both sides.† She encouraged the audience to think in terms of partnerships and coordination, and consider how existing services can be better coordinated to leverage existing resources.† She stated that homelessness would not be solved altogether, though it can be kept from getting worse and better services can be provided.†
sheltering the homeless during emergencies
Commr. Campione introduced Mr. Tommy Carpenter, Director of the Office of Emergency Management, commenting that he brought an important perspective because he assisted with sheltering the homeless during hurricanes and also reached out to community organizations and churches to provide shelter during recent cold weather.†
Mr. Carpenter said he appreciated the opportunity to speak about homelessness and sheltering during emergencies which started in recent years with Tropical Storm Colin in June 2016.† He stated that during the 2016 hurricane season, in 2017 with Hurricane Irma, and the unusual cold weather in January 2018, the process of sheltering was enabled by community efforts, through citizens reaching out to the County, and through social media.† He commented that for cold weather sheltering, his office worked with four churches, and more churches reached out after that process to offer help with future needs.† He noted that the four churches were LifePoint Church in the City of Eustis, First Baptist Church of Mount Dora, Trinity Assembly of God in the City of Fruitland Park and Cathedral of Power International Church in the City of Clermont.† He added that these churches were willing to donate their time, their services and their personnel to help shelter homeless, and those services were provided on days between January 17 and January 30, 2018.† He specified that a total of 47 citizens and four dogs were sheltered through that process, and County staff visited the churches on those nights.† He elaborated that some of the homeless individuals lived on the streets, and other citizens serviced by the churches were recently displaced families and families living in manufactured homes that did not have heat.† He said that while it was a small group of people, it was representative of the people that needed help.† He relayed that after the cold weather sheltering, other organizations reached out to the County to ask how to help.† He said that during Hurricane Irma, the County opened 14 shelters within schools and sheltered nearly 5,000 people and over 600 pets.† He noted being asked at that time why the County was only sheltering during hurricanes, and reported that when a hurricane is imminent, an executive order is received from the Governor, a local state of emergency occurs and the County has statutory authority to open shelters, close schools and bring in the personnel to accomplish this.† He said that when he looked across the state for cold weather sheltering, there were no local state of emergencies or orders issued by the Governor; instead, sheltering was provided by the faith-based community and non-governmental organizations that partnered with the County.† He mentioned that the four churches in four different parts of the county led to the sheltering being community based.† He elaborated that the law enforcement and fire rescue agencies for each city also provided services to the sheltered individuals throughout that time, and local provisions organizations brought food and blankets.† He said that it was a more personal type of sheltering when compared to a shelter where hundreds of citizens gather, and that the personnel interacted with citizens and learned more about their situations.† He mentioned talking to staff from other counties about how to perform services better, and that some of the larger counties to the south have large non-governmental organizations specifically helping the homeless population.† He said that for Tropical Storm Colin on June 1, 2016, the storm was in the Gulf of Mexico and the Governor issued a state of emergency for the entire state.† He stated that even if the storm shifted east toward Florida, the storms would be similar to severe summer thunderstorms that are common; however, there was a segment of the homeless population that would need shelter from the storms at nighttime.† He commented that the County was not going to open shelters because the typical need was not there, and the County worked with the City of Leesburg, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross to find a way to transport those individuals to the Salvation Army and feed them until the next day.† He stated that emergency management does not typically become involved with homelessness on a day-to-day basis, but intervenes when tropical storms and cold weather occur; however, he noted receiving calls about families with children who have no place to stay.† He remarked that his office works with community services personnel and his staff makes calls to a list of organizations to see where families can be sheltered.† He said that after working with churches for cold weather sheltering, his office was trying to make those contacts to give these families and other homeless individuals a place to go.† He commented that he was working with similar staff in other counties to address cold weather sheltering, and that other counties to the north and west had similar issues.† He indicated that hurricane and cold weather sheltering could be separate, but his office saw an increased number of citizens needing cold weather sheltering in 2018 and questions were being asked about how to address them.†
Commr. Campione opened up the floor for questions, and said that one question she had received concerned how cold weather shelters ensure that homeless individuals leave on the next day.
Mr. Carpenter said that his office worked with city, county, community and transportation services.† He stated it was ensured that buses were able to transport the individuals to and from the shelters, and that certain shelters stayed open longer due to extended cold weather.† He remarked that fire rescue and law enforcement continually monitored the homeless, and the Countyís role was to link those services together.† He mentioned that most individuals who needed a cold weather shelter already had shelter during the day, though the churches were able to provide a daytime shelter to the individuals who needed it.
A citizen asked about providing information about shelters to the community.
Mr. Carpenter replied that it should be a community oriented approach.† He said that he watched how the church parishioners and personnel interacted with the community, and that those groups are part of the message about shelters.† He stated that it was a multi-pronged communication strategy for what the County can do to help in getting out the message, and the current guideline for opening cold weather shelters was that if temperatures would be 40 degrees or lower or wind chill would be 35 degrees or lower for four or more consecutive hours.† He said that in these conditions, the County is able to communicate with these facilities and that facilities and people willing to help are also assisting in spreading the message.
Ms. Gail Ash, Clermont City Council and Mayor, asked how the County sends information to churches and cities, if the County appealed to cities for police assistance, and if the County reached out to a particular source for churches.
Mr. Carpenter replied that the County contacted all of those parties.† He specified that the process began with contacts from churches that were willing to help, and this led to shelters being secured in the different cities.† He added that as the County proceeded forward, they received other contacts asking about the process.† He remarked that the first four churches were very open and willing to help initially, though other individuals wanted to first see what the process was and how it worked.† He mentioned that cold weather sheltering was a new process for the County, and that utilizing both county and city services worked well.† He expressed that he personally communicated with law enforcement and fire rescue to ask for support for the churches.†
A citizen asked if a local congregation or community service has a facility, is there a concern about liability for individuals who become ill or does not have their medications.†
Mr. Carpenter responded that the County was currently working on a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that had not gone through the legal process yet.† He said that the cold weather sheltering was done through a handshake deal with the facilities to accept and feed homeless individuals, and the County helped coordinate law enforcement and fire rescue and make them aware of the sheltered individuals.† He added that the draft MOU was based on what other counties use and was going to be used for a more formal agreement between the County and those facilities for cases of cold weather or tropical storm conditions that create an unsafe environment outside.†
A citizen expressed a concern about elderly and special needs individuals in emergency shelters and said that communities should be informed about shelters for special needs individuals.†
Mr. Carpenter agreed, and reiterated that in a community approach, each community works to take care of individuals that they know will need help.† He stated that public safety personnel typically know who will need help, and that this approach can build upon the feedback received after the last cold weather sheltering.†
Commr. Campione added that the cold weather shelters were put in place very quickly, and that individuals contacted the County to ask how they would respond to the weather.† She said that after having those experiences, the County was better prepared going forward.† She suggested offering information on the County website about churches and organizations that will be offering shelter during cold weather.† She noted that the County was already proficient at hurricane sheltering, though cold weather sheltering was a new area.
the mid florida homeless coalition: the continuum of care approach
Ms. Barbara Wheeler, Director of Mid Florida Homeless Coalition, said that her organization is the lead agency for Lake, Sumter, Hernando and Citrus Counties as determined by the Florida State Office on Homelessness and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and that those organizations provide them funding.† She relayed that during Hurricane Irma, her organization was talking to all of the Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) in the four counties to determine if the homeless population would be assisted.† She mentioned that a Continuum of Care (CoC) is about all of the service providers coming together and working with the Mid Florida Homeless Coalition to determine solutions for homelessness, and that a recent development in her organization was the establishment of a governing board.† She elaborated that HUD is the main reason for the four counties working together to obtain that funding and end homelessness.† She said that the governing board consists of individuals from those countiesí communities and that the organization was seeking leadership on the board.† She indicated that the governing board made decisions in the four counties about where funding is allocated, what plans are enacted, and specified priorities.† She commented that the two individuals from Lake County who were currently serving on the board were Ms. Melissa Simmes, with Florida Hospital Waterman, due to the need to address medical issues for homeless individuals being released from hospitals, and Mr. Robert Morin, with the Lake County League of Cities and Mayor of Eustis, due to his background with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).† She said that HUD indicated there needed to be a group of people from the communities that would decide which projects to fund.† She stated that that the organizations represented by many of the audience members comprise the CoC, and Mid Florida Homeless Coalition was merely the lead agency.† She relayed that that her organization is instructed to operate the CoC by considering data and how the system is performing, designating a homeless management information system for the CoC, planning for the CoC using community information and presenting it to the governing board and preparing the HUD application for funding.† She said that the State decided to follow what HUD recommended, and there are state statutes that impose guidelines on Mid Florida Homeless Coalition, though many of them mirror HUDís mandates.† She specified that part of what her organization engages in is producing small foldable resource cards that they distribute throughout the four counties, and asked the community to inform her group about homeless resources so the cards could be updated.† She said that those cards are distributed to the homeless community so that they can be in contact with those resources for services such as housing assistance.† She stated that another function of her organization is to identify unmet needs by talking to members of the community and to discover effective practices; additionally, she stated an intent to avoid duplicating services between agencies and to encourage a diversification of services.† She also mentioned working with the state to help businesses become engaged, and that businessesí input is appreciated because they are also affected by homelessness and can provide a unique perspective.† She commented that planning is important and that for a long period of time, the organizationís CoC was not producing consistently effective results; however, the governing board recently evaluated the organizationís strategic plan with a new mission statement of making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring and using the Housing First approach.† She specified that the organization wanted to move the chronic homeless into housing, and help prevent homeless individuals from becoming chronic, noting that longer durations of homeless for an individual create greater costs to service them.† She said that a goal was to increase the organizationís capacity by having providers who can apply for and manage state and federal dollars.† She remarked that dollars applied for can only be used if there are providers that can run programs, and that her organization had already begun gathering others with the capacity to do this.† She elaborated that the grants are reimbursement grants, and that organizations must have funding to use alongside management for grant dollars.† She said that other goals were advocacy, education and awareness, and her organization recently held a conference on April 13, 2018 to bring together agencies that assist the homeless.† She specified that the conference involved educating these groups about case management, working with chronic homeless and those with mental illness.† She opined that there is a fear of those with mental illnesses, and part of their education was focused on alleviating fears about working with that type of individual.† She commented that another goal was quality assurance, that quality data should be shared, and that her organization is required to send data to HUD and the State of Florida.† She said that failure to follow HUD directives would result in an end to funding and services.† She mentioned that one directive is to end veteranís homelessness, and that her organization attempts to do this for every homeless veteran within the four counties.† She said that since 2016, her organization receives bi-weekly calls from government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Veteranís Affairs (VA), and other groups that can provide funding and outreach teams; furthermore; 37 veterans have been housed since that time.† She indicated that another goal was ending chronic homelessness by 2017, noting that longer periods of homelessness correlate to greater chances of harm, and that her organization was examining how to move those people into housing.† She added that chronically homeless individuals are the most expensive to service whether they are on the street or in housing due to income sources such as Supplementary Security Income (SSI) being insufficient.† She elaborated that most of these individuals would need case management or other services, often for the remainder of their lives.† She noted the directive of ending family homelessness by 2020, opining that it is easier to work with veterans due to funding from the VA and other sources supporting it, and that working with other populations was more challenging.† She showed a chart detailing HUD CoC dollars that came into the local community, and noted that one funded program was Lake County Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH).† She thanked her organizationís housing partners in Lake County for housing the chronically homeless, and noted another CoC grant for Lifestream Behavioral Centerís HOPE House; however, this service was likely going to end and her organization would be considering how to reallocate that funding for other PSH in Lake County.† She explained that the Mid Florida Homeless Coalition receives HUD dollars and grant matches from community organizations to maintain the database.† She noted that no matches had been recently received from Lake County, though other grants had been making up that funding, and her organization was attempting to find volunteers to enter data.† She mentioned that as part of her organizationís coordinated access system for getting people into housing, one of their directives is not for housing to be on a first come first serve basis; rather, in order to obtain grant funding from HUD, they are directed to first serve homeless individuals who are considered to be the most difficult to service. She stated that this process is challenging, but that it works because case management must be utilized when determining housing plans for these individuals.† She said that for rapid re-housing, which generates many dollars for the CoC, there are short-term, medium-term and long-term plans with a maximum of one year of financial assistance.† She commented that another proposal was a housing locator due to the challenge of finding available housing for the homeless.† She noted that homeless individuals often have evictions or past misconduct that may lead to landlords being resistant to working with them; however, her organization was attempting to form relationships with landlords and homeowners who rent, and that these individuals may be more receptive to homeless citizens with case management.† She shared that a chronically homeless individual was recently referred to Lake County for PSH and was found housing in less than 30 days.† She said that another component of coordinated access is performing housing assessments for each person that desires housing, and she thanked LifeStream Behavioral Centerís The Open Door facility for providing staff trained for housing assessments.† She stated that as contributors to a CoC, part of those organizationsí responsibilities is ensuring that dollars are spent on a timely basis and for effective outcomes.† She commented that if it is found that an organization is unable to spend funding or not utilizing funding properly, then her organization has the responsibility to reallocate that funding.† She showed a chart displaying state funds which her organization distributes to other agencies, and said that LifeStream was a recipient of over $136,000 for performing outreach and rapid re-housing.† She mentioned that outreach teams are a part of contacting communities about cold weather sheltering, and both LifeStream and Mid Florida Homeless Coalition have these teams.† She remarked that LifeStream also received roughly $28,000 for rapid re-housing from the state Challenge Grant, which allows local agencies to determine needs and use those funds to meet them.† She added that Lake Community Action Agency received over $20,000 in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to assist households with staying in housing.† She indicated that her organization was preparing to submit its point in time count to HUD, and that this would involve counting every homeless individual in the four counties.† She said that outreach is important to locate these citizens, and displayed charts showing the organizationís homelessness numbers and also a By-Name List.† She noted that there was a total of 312 homeless persons in Lake County at a single point in time in January 2018, and said that the By-Name List was used to track which individuals were homeless on a daily basis; additionally, this list changes frequently due to individuals getting into housing or self-resolving, and there were 476 homeless individuals in Lake County on April 25, 2018.† She displayed a year by year comparison, noting that the homeless population in Lake County rose by 70 persons from 2017 to 2018, though 55 of them were being housed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after Hurricane Irma but must be counted according to HUD.† She stated that 369 people on the By-Name List had yet to be assessed, and that while some of these individuals may not want housing, the majority of them had yet to become comfortable enough with the Mid Florida Homeless Coalition to agree to a housing assessment.† She said that her organization was also required to create an inventory of every shelter and transitional, permanent and PSH program in the four counties.† She added that there was an inventory for individual beds in Lake County alongside an inventory of beds for families.† She outlined these measures used by HUD to grade CoCs nationwide: the length of time persons remain homeless in a shelter, because it is not desirable for persons to be housed in shelters for extended periods of time; the extent to which persons exiting homelessness to permanent housing return to homelessness, which relates to case management; the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons, which relates to how veteransí homelessness cannot be ended due to a lack of emergency shelters; the number of persons who become homeless for the first time; and successful placement from street outreach and successful placement in or retention of permanent housing, with her organizationís goal being placing people into housing.† She said that her organizationís system of care includes outreach, providing shelter and getting the homeless out of shelter and into housing as quickly as possible.† She mentioned the importance of food and housing within human needs, and stated that it is difficult for individuals without those items being able to move forward.
Mr. Jim Gleason, Mascotte City Manager, stated that homelessness creates a daily emergency.† He opined that homeless individuals are commonly families and that this was the most significant issue in central Florida.† He also relayed that many high school students live in vehicles, motels or they move between many residences.† He opined that a significant issue is that there is no health insurance program to enable mental healthcare for these people, and bankruptcies related to healthcare are the most common cause of financial ruin.† He also indicated issues with insufficient wages leading to homelessness among families.
Commr. Campione replied that the current meeting was about the broader topic of homelessness and Ms. Wheelerís presentation was centered on services that the Mid Florida Homeless Coalition provides.† She said that the affordability of housing and wages were significant issues, and that the current forum would consider different programs to determine where gaps exist and how the community can address issues.
law enforcement and public nuisance issues
Commr. Campione opined that law enforcement and public nuisance issues were additional aspects of homelessness, and that street homelessness was a significant issue in the City of Leesburg; however, some homeless individuals may be out of sight in wooded areas.†
Mr. Rob Hicks, Leesburg Police Chief, said that the Leesburg Police Department is aware of street homelessness through citizen complaints, primarily in the downtown district and in plazas.† He stated that homelessness is not a crime, and the police addresses criminal behaviors; however, he noted that some individuals believe that police should intervene in these cases.† He elaborated that when a call for service regarding a homeless individual is received, the police must make contact with that person whether they are merely homeless or causing a disturbance.† He said that his experience with the issue includes business owners calling the department about homeless individuals performing acts such as sitting on benches with their belongings in front of establishments, and this act may disrupt the ability for patrons to utilize that space.† He stated that his department was aware of individuals holding cardboard signs at intersections because standing on a corner or walking into traffic to collect money causes significant safety issues; however, he said that his department was trying to get funding for resources that would help the homeless population.† He recalled discussing the issue of aggressive panhandling with the Leesburg City Council, which is when intimidation or simulated weapons leads to the behavior becoming criminal.†
A citizen said that she had a day center in the City of Leesburg, and asked if Leesburg police could bring homeless citizens to the center to receive food and showers.†
Mr. Hicks replied that this may be a solution, but that it may also be a misnomer.† He relayed that many homeless individuals choose to sit at downtown Leesburg, and the city has ample resources that a select group of homeless do not want to utilize.† He mentioned that he would be working with community agencies to develop more succinct guidelines for homeless individuals to seek help.†
A citizen asked if officers on the street have information available about resources to offer to homeless individuals.†
Mr. Hicks responded that officers provide homeless citizens with pamphlets detailing where to find assistance, but reiterated that not all homeless individuals will seek that help.† He said that many veterans become homeless because they become accustomed to that type of lifestyle when serving in the military.†
A citizen inquired if there was an officer designated to contact the homeless and refer them to services.
Mr. Hicks replied that his department had one officer assigned as a liaison to homeless and transient people in the city.
Ms. Ash asked if he knew the percentage of panhandlers that are not actually homeless.
Mr. Hicks said that fraudulent panhandlers were prevalent in south Florida, though they were not common in the City of Leesburg.†
A citizen asked how the department interacts with people who are both homeless and mentally ill.
Mr. Hicks said that being mentally ill is not a criminal act, though information about mental healthcare is provided to those individuals.† He commented that his department also communicates with LifeStream Behavioral Center to find help for citizens.†
A citizen asked how officers are instructed to interact with veterans and if they are encouraged to thank them for their service.
Mr. Hicks said that it should be common protocol to treat others with respect and dignity, though it is a choice for officers to make at that particular time.† He added that offering those words to a veteran can help those interactions proceed more easily.
A citizen asked if it would be helpful for officers if municipalities established clear rules for the use of public spaces in order to facilitate homeless individuals transitioning into resources.
††††††††††† Commr. Campione remarked that if there was a shelter, those rules would allow law enforcement an option of taking homeless individuals to that shelter or the county jail.† She said that there is considerable cost associated with operating a jail and that services are not provided within them; however, shelters can connect homeless individuals to mental health services or housing opportunities.† She opined that having uniform rules throughout the county and municipalities would be helpful, though it would have to be done in conjunction with a shelter as an alternative to incarceration.
Mr. Hicks said there would need to be some commonality between the county and the municipalities.† He stated that to meet basic needs, homeless individuals may bathe or shower in a place that is socially acceptable, and an arrest, such as for public indecency, could not be imposed on these individuals because of their situation.† He commented that a shelter providing food and clothes that any municipality could use would allow law enforcement to begin enforcing those types of behaviors.†
A citizen asked about homeless sex offenders, opining that city and state ordinances were preventing them from living at certain residences.
Commr. Campione replied that if there was a shelter, there would still have to be a separation between homeless sex offenders and other individuals.† She mentioned that the limitations on where sex offenders can live can create challenges in finding housing.†
The citizen added that limitations on sex offenders allow them to visit certain places, but they cannot stay overnight.
Mr. Hicks remarked that this is one of many different nuances that would have to be discussed, and that future workshops could help address this issue.
Commr. Campione relayed that The Open Door in the City of Eustis allows individuals to wash clothes and make phone calls during the daytime, but noted that there was not a service at night.
recess and reassembly
Commr. Campione called a recess at 10:06 a.m. for 15 minutes.
local providers, churches and non-profit organizations
Commr. Campione asked members of the audience to introduce themselves and the organizations they represent.† Audience members were present from numerous groups such as the Florida Healthcare Coalition, Real Life Christian Church, New Beginnings Christian Church, Community Health Centers, and United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties.† She thanked the organizations for their efforts, and said that the community was providing services in many ways; however, there were still gaps in service and the current meeting was about how to fill those gaps in the most effective way.†
lifestream behavioral center and the open door
Mr. B.E. Thompson, Director of Development for LifeStream Behavioral Center, said that LifeStream is a behavioral health and social services organization that provides high quality inpatient and outpatient treatment, residential services, education, case management, rehabilitation, child welfare, primary care and homeless services to children, adolescents, adults and seniors.† He relayed that since 1971, LifeStream has been committed to supporting recovery, promoting health and creating hope.† He commented that LifeStream is located in central Florida and primarily serves Lake and Sumter Counties, with additional programs located in Citrus, Hernando, Marion and Orange Counties.† He mentioned that LifeStream is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and is reviewed annually by state and federal regulatory agencies.† He stated that LifeStream is governed by a board of directors comprised of community volunteers, and in Fiscal Year (FY) 17, LifeStream served nearly 24,000 individuals and provided over 320,000 care visits.† He said that the organization has an access center at its main campus in the City of Leesburg, which provides trained counselors who conduct mental health and substance use disorder assessments and perform crisis intervention as necessary to address the needs of each individual.† He indicated that services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the access center provides a centralized system for individuals to access services provided within LifeStreamís care continuum and to match individuals with the appropriate level of care.† He mentioned that LifeStreamís housing continuum and support services includes Anthony House, which is a residential facility that services these three distinctive vulnerable populations: intact families; single females; and substance misusing pregnant and postpartum women.† He added that these groups are motivated to make positive changes in their lives, and that Anthony House provides an environment that fosters independence and helps residents gain the life skills needed to prevent future chronic homelessness and substance misuse.† He remarked that supported housing services at LifeStream assist persons with severe mental illness in choosing, obtaining and keeping decent, stable, affordable and permanent housing.† He explained that the program emphasizes integration into the community, flexible services and indefinite support with items including grocery shopping, medical appointments, housekeeping and access to other community resources.† He stated that LifeStream also operates Hope Springs Villas, which is an affordable housing complex for low income residents.† He elaborated that Hope Springs has 34 one and two bedroom rental units, including three that are fully accessible according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).† He relayed that through a partnership with the Board of County Commissioners (BCC), 23 of the rental units had been assigned HUD Section 8 project based vouchers, and the remaining 11 rental units are available for low income individuals and families.† He noted that tenants receiving housing subsidies are required to develop a support services plan with specific personal development goals.† He commented that the plan is reviewed twice per year with the tenant to measure their achievements and assist them in accomplishing their goals.† He said that Hope Springs assists families in becoming self-sufficient members of the community, and that LifeStream also offers a PSH program in partnership with Lake County Housing and Community Development and Mid Florida Homeless Coalition. †He specified that the program was formerly known as Shelter Plus Care, and LifeStream has been the primary provider of behavioral health services for individuals and families who qualify for and receive the benefit of a housing subsidy under the HUD funded program.† He remarked that The Open Door is a drop in center for individuals and families in Lake County who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and that the facility provides a safe, compassionate and supportive environment.† He elaborated that The Open Door links homeless individuals to the needed amenities and services including showers, laundry facilities, a permanent mailing address, phones, food and beverages, assistance in obtaining benefits, on-site support services and referrals to other area agencies.† He explained that the goal of The Open Door is to assist individuals and families who find themselves homeless or at risk of becoming homeless due to situational or generational poverty, and to help them access long-term job training and employment programs, and assist them to integrate back into society and become self-sufficient; however, The Open Door does not provide overnight services.† He also indicated that LifeStreamís Pathways Program has the branches of street outreach and rapid re-housing.† He specified that street outreach consists of the homeless case manager and homeless specialist working to engage individuals experiencing homelessness, and this includes the team going out to the streets and into the woods to meet with homeless individuals and attempt to connect them to services.† He said that the team initially tries to meet the individualsí needs such as food, water and toiletries, and develop a rapport with them to enable assisting them with other services, including applying for benefits and completing applications for employment or housing.† He said that if an individual is interested in housing, a Vulnerability Index Ė Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) and full SPDAT will be completed to score the individual or familyís vulnerability.† He stated that once assessments are completed, the individual is placed on the By-Name List, and the list prioritizes, based on their vulnerability score, what consumers will be referred to agencies that have funds to house them.† He indicated that the homeless case managers are also responsible for rapid re-housing, and that Mid Florida Homeless Coalition will refer individuals or families from the By-Name List to the homeless case manager.† He elaborated that the consumer and the case manager will develop a service plan consisting of goals that the consumer wants or needs to accomplish and how they will achieve them.† He explained that they will also establish a budget for housing and their everyday expenses, and their homeless case manager works with Mid Florida Homeless Coalitionís housing locator to find the consumer viable options for housing.† He relayed that the consumer will remain on the case managerís caseload for one year after they are housed, during which time the case manager will assist the consumer with anything they need before, during and after they are housed.†
Ms. Karen Rogers, Adult Clinical Services Director for LifeStream Behavioral Center, said that the mobile crisis team was being operated through the central receiving system at LifeStream where the agency can send personnel out to evaluate an individual.† She noted that LifeStream also has a partnership with the County through a grant provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to provide mobile crisis services in partnership with law enforcement.† She indicated that LifeStreamís partnership with the County and the Clermont Police Department has allowed her agency to embed a counselor at the department who is now working with a dedicated officer to enable responding in the community to situations involving a mental health crisis.† She added that the counselor and the officer are able to be deployed together for increased safety, and they can use de-escalation techniques and assessment skills to see what a homeless person needs and if they need to be diverted from arrest into a psychiatric facility for evaluation and treatment.† She added that these individuals can also be connected to other social services in the community, and this gives her staff the ability to follow up with the individual as they are treated and released from facilities.† She indicated that LifeStream also collaborates with law enforcement and community partners to provide Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training to officers in Lake County, and that a position was funded to provide a CIT coordinator/educator who is dedicated to developing that training.† She commented that it was a 40 hour a week training, and her agency had recently begun partnering with Be Free Lake to specifically provide an additional refresher training or training for individuals who cannot access the 40 hour program.† She added that her agency had also been providing training for mental health first aid training.† She explained that the CIT model allows her agency to provide significant information, bring in consumers of mental health services to share their experiences and discuss community resources and how to best partner together to respond to community needs.† She expressed that her agency observed confidence from law enforcement to work with mentally ill individuals in a different way and help them to become more trauma informed, which also helps to deescalate crises.† She said that trauma can be triggered in crisis situations which can worsen situations and lead to people being arrested or institutionalized through the Baker Act, and that a different approach could eliminate those scenarios.† She said that these opportunities came to LifeStream from their community partnerships and were enabled by LifeStreamís ability to utilize resources and draw significant grants into its communities.† She elaborated that LifeStream has the administrative capability to manage grants, and all of these items are needed parts of the CoC.
Mr. Thompson remarked that LifeStream has Wellness Integration Network (WIN) clinics that provide primary care services to anyone over the age of 18 in the Cities of Eustis, Leesburg, Clermont and Umatilla.† He said that the clinics provide comprehensive medical services ranging from physicals, health screenings and treating illness and injury such as cold and flu, infections, diabetes and high blood pressure.† He stated that WIN operates as a medical home offering holistic integrated and coordinated care, and that in addition to medical services and testing, WIN also provides care management, transportation, in-home visits and wellness and prevention programs.† He mentioned the Supplemental Security Income/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSI/SSDI) Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) program, which is a model that allows individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness who have mental illness, co-occurring substance use disorder or other medical impairments to apply for social security, disability and other benefits; additionally, LifeStream has a dedicated staff member to assist the community submitting SOAR applications.† He remarked that LifeStream is a large organization with a long history of community partnerships with county and city governments, law enforcement and non-profit entities including churches.†
lake county affordable housing initiatives and grant programs
Commr. Campione said that connecting individuals to housing is a significant component of the homelessness issue.† She noted the By-Name List of homeless individuals, and that some portion of them do not want housing.† She asked the audience to consider if there would be a way to quantify the number of individuals on the list that would be receptive to housing if it were available, and wondered if those individuals were not being serviced because of a lack of resources or if it is due to insufficient qualifications under government guidelines that decide who receives housing dollars.†
Ms. Allison Thall, Interim Manager of the Housing and Community Development Division, said that from the Countyís perspective, homelessness cannot be completely solved; however, her division is in place to help mitigate the issue and prevent individuals from becoming homeless.† She stated that her division has three programs in housing, and two in particular use funding from both the federal and state government to address housing issues.† She mentioned that the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Programís funds are awarded to the County annually through the state legislature and that there is a housing trust fund that receives its money from documentary stamp tax revenue.† She elaborated that funds are allocated to each of the counties, and Lake County uses the funds to develop strategies to address low income families living in a substandard dwelling including homes with poor roofs, poor septic systems or lost wells.† She specified that the funds are used to prevent these families from losing their home entirely by using the money to repair those homes.† She commented that the SHIP Program has a repair component, along with a demolition replacement component for homes that are substandard to a degree where they must be demolished and rebuilt as a site built home.† She mentioned that the County receives money to identify these individuals, qualify them and then the County works with local contractors to demolish a house and replace it to prevent the family from becoming homeless.† She remarked that the second program is the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program which uses funds from the federal government.† She said that the County uses its CDBG funds for a variety of areas throughout the county, and there are additional home rehabilitation programs including a mobile home replacement strategy.† She specified that individuals living in aging mobile homes that need a new home can receive a replacement to keep them from becoming homeless; additionally, keeping a family in a mobile home can save costs including home maintenance and insurance when compared to placing them in a site built home.† She said that partnerships are critical to successful programs, and that she was also working with the Health and Human Services Division which includes children and human service grants that the BCC awards to her department to be provided to non-profit organizations.† She added that these organizations serve homeless and low income individuals, and that no one organization can succeed alone.†
florida housing coalitionís perspective
Ms. Susan Pourciau, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Homeless Training and Technical Assistance for the Florida Housing Coalition, said that her agency was a statewide non-profit organization that works in the areas of homelessness and affordable housing and provides training, technical assistance and consulting to communities, non-profit organizations and local governments.† She stated that her agencyís goal is for each Floridian to have a safe, affordable home.† She relayed that she previously worked in direct services with persons experiencing homelessness with an organization engaging in street outreach, emergency shelter, transitional housing, rapid re-housing, PSH, and veteransí and familiesí programs.† She noted that the solution to homelessness involves many parties including local government, the CoC and the private sector such as the Chamber of Commerce, businesses and the faith community.† She said that local governments have displayed leadership by enabling the current meeting as a platform for conversation, and also through the funding and planning mentioned by Ms. Thall and Ms. Wheeler.† She opined that the solution to homelessness is helping individuals get into homes, and there are a wide variety of approaches; however, some approaches do not reduce homelessness but may still be viable for other reasons.† She mentioned that ordinances are passed to improve citizensí quality of life, and that passing more of them can be necessary for behaviors including aggressive panhandling or individuals sleeping outdoors.† She commented that an example would be her organization being engaged by the City of Sarasota in the previous year to help them work through ordinances and emergency shelter needs related to enforcement of those ordinances.† She elaborated that an ordinance designed to prevent sleeping outdoors would not allow arresting that individual without providing them a lawful alternative such as an overnight shelter.† She said that organizations may want to build or expand shelters, clear out homeless camps or build a one stop center, though these actions do not directly reduce homelessness; rather, it makes it easier to manage.† She stated that increasing access to affordable housing can be an effective method to reduce homelessness.† She elaborated that this would primarily be through programs including rapid re-housing and PSH that help individuals get into an apartment, mobile home or duplex, and provides some rent assistance and necessary services to help them remain stably housed.† She remarked that emergency shelters, ordinances and street outreach can be connectors to housing, though will not independently reduce homelessness.† She opined that the Housing First system is the best approach, and said that the approach is not housing only, but also provides secondary services to help people remain stably housed.† She commended the Mid Florida Homeless Coalition and said that any community in Florida would be proud to have that lead agency.† She commented that the Housing First approach is recognizing that people tend to make better life decisions if they have a stable platform from which to do that, such as a house or apartment.† She added that once they move into a house, nearly all of them will increase their income, increase their connection with substance abuse and mental health services, and get their children back into school.† She said that the house is the platform for wellness and recovery, and it also helps reintegrate people into communities.† She elaborated that individuals who have been homeless for a considerable amount of time become disconnected or isolated and homelessness becomes their lifestyle.† She commented that reconnecting to social services, places of worship, senior centers and community resources helps people to recover and saves the community money.† She said that street outreach is a vital component of the homeless assistance system, giving the example of law enforcement street outreach in the City of Sarasota where officers are paired with case managers and handpicked to relate to and communicate with homeless individuals; additionally, the case manager can connect the individual to services and follow up with them without the presence of an officer.† She mentioned that while this approach does not reduce homelessness, it can set individuals on a path to housing.† She also remarked that emergency shelter can be an important component of the system, and that having a small shelter for safety purposes, jail diversion and other reasons can help, but only if there are exit strategies to help people get into housing.† She displayed an image showing various components of the CoC, noting that there are both entry and exit doors to the system; however, only rapid re-housing and PSH are exit doors.† She elaborated that rapid re-housing is short-term rent assistance and supportive services, and is appropriate for individuals without severe needs.† She said that for individuals who experience homelessness chronically or over long periods of time and have disabilities, mental health and substance use disorders, PSH is an effective solution.† She said that, regarding how many people on the By-Name List want housing, most of them will voice that they want housing, some want housing but will indicate the opposite and others do not want housing at the current time.† She commented that these individuals should be kept on the list and continually engaged until they are ready to get into housing.† She remarked that both entry and exit doors are required, but that overfunding shelters and underfunding rapid re-housing will not reduce homelessness.† She noted that law enforcement does not want to criminalize homelessness, but there can be ordinances for public safety reasons that offer lawful alternatives.† She opined that these shelters should be relatively small, because large shelters create difficulty in getting individuals to exit out.† She gave an example of a previous community she worked in, stating that they constructed a facility to hold 200 people that now is holding 275; additionally, the shelter has low housing placement rates and individuals stay there for long periods of time.† She opined that the best way to reduce homelessness is to create a significantly sized, high quality rapid re-housing program, and to consider housing before shelter.† She noted resources available on her organizationís website including a landlord collaboration guide for helping households move out of homelessness and an affordable housing funding resources guide.† She encouraged the audience to attend her organizationís upcoming affordable housing conference in Orlando, FL for more information, and that Sarasota law enforcement would be at the event; additionally, there would also be presentations for rapid re-housing programs and best case scenario programs.
††††††††††† Commr. Breeden asked if she was aware of a community that had the right balance of entrance and exit strategies.
Ms. Pourciau replied that no Florida community had this balance completely solved, though Orlando showed positive results with chronically homeless individuals; however, their success was not repeated with the other homeless populations.† She added that Sarasota County was positively serving non-chronic homeless, and effectiveness can depend on what priorities are set.† She commented that Sarasota Countyís reallocated system reduced homelessness by nearly 30 percent in one year, and best practices do exist.
Catholic charitiesí Volusia county experience
Mr. Gary Tester, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Central Florida, said that Catholic Charities is involved in a number of ways to address homelessness, and that most individuals want a model of homeless services that acts quickly; however, a slower and more stable approach can lead to positive outcomes.† He said that he previously worked with homeless services in Michigan and Ohio, and that he was new to Volusia County.† He noted that a few years prior, there was negative media coverage for the homeless situation in Volusia County, and government has struggled to address this issue and move the homeless away from the beach district and businesses.† He relayed that his organization was brought in to offer input on the situation, and was later asked to manage a shelter that Volusia County would construct.† He stated that his organization is the largest provider of rapid re-housing services in Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties, and this practice had emerged in Catholic Charities over the past two years.† He elaborated that his organization met with other parties and asked how they could offer greater assistance, and that rental and utility assistances services were not enough.† He said that his organization operates one of six assisted living facilities in the United States that is dedicated to serving homeless individuals who have had an acute medical episode and cannot be discharged onto the street.† He added that his organization also operates transitional housing for individuals who have come from assisted living facilities who are not ready to return to the street, but are on a path to sustainable housing.† He commented that Catholic Charities would be moving into its greatest ministry focus of creating affordable housing in central Florida.† He mentioned that Volusia County was building a homeless shelter outside of town on land provided by the County, and stated that the City of Daytona Beach will be making improvements to the shelter, that there were shelter transportation plans made both publically and privately by the First Step Shelter Board, and that it is a master case management shelter.† He reiterated that Catholic Charities was not interested in merely providing beds and food, as this can lead to individuals staying for long periods of time, and a shelter used only by homeless individuals to sleep would also fail to address their holistic needs.† He expressed that services provided should include dignity and respect, and his organization was also working with Stewart-Marchman-Act Behavioral Healthcare (SMA) and Halifax Urban Ministries; furthermore, there would be a health center with six beds at the shelter managed by Halifax, two case managers from SMA would be onsite, and the goal would be to bring people in, perform the appropriate assessments and begin to develop life plans for them to get them back into the community and into rapid re-housing or the Housing First approach.† He recounted a conversation with Mr. Sam Willett, Chairman, Commission on Homelessness for Volusia and Flagler Counties, in which it was discussed how the shelter could be made part of a system that leads to exit strategies for housing.† He said they also discussed housing navigation in the private sector and how they can work with landlords and inform them that the organization will support its clients as they try to get leases and housing.† He relayed that the shelter was currently scheduled to be 140 beds with a mix of beds for single men and single women; however, there is a family homeless shelter managed by Halifax in the City of Holly Hill that his organization provides counseling for.† He said that a challenge with the Volusia County shelter is the notion that most individuals coming there would be suicidal, and while this is false, the shelter has been advised to take precautions and add perimeter fencing.† He also indicated that he did not want the shelter to merely act as a drop off point for law enforcement; however, he wanted law enforcement to work with the shelter.† He reported that the shelter would have counseling provisions, master case management and rapid re-housing, and his organization was trying to make all of those pieces fit together.† He said that the shelter had a significant size and was hurricane safe, and his organization was constantly communicating with community partners to move the plan forward in a holistic way.† He expressed excitement for the project, and remarked that visiting Volusia County and Daytona Beach would make it evident that action needs to be taken.† He noted that Volusia County had previous shelters; however, they experienced loitering and unclean conditions.† He encouraged the audience to remember that a shelter is one facet of a multifaceted system aimed at getting people into houses.†
Commr. Campione said that one concern among the homeless population was substance abuse, and asked how the shelter would handle that type of case.
Mr. Tester replied that the shelter would accept intoxicated individuals, and that they would be brought into the facility and entered into a process to assist them.† He stated that SMA provides alcohol, other drug and mental health services onsite, and there would also be a medical unit onsite to treat intoxicated individuals.† He commented that those individuals would be set up with SMA for the appropriate services, and that citizens with chronic illnesses can also receive disease management assistance onsite.† He mentioned that more intensive cases could be transported to the main hospital by Halifax Urban Ministries, and SMA can bring people to the main facility for their programs if needed.†
Commr. Campione inquired about jail diversion and reentry services at the shelter.
Mr. Tester responded that this was an ongoing conversation, and there was a criminal justice subcommittee chaired by Judge Belle Schumann, Seventh Judicial Circuit, that was working to address those issues.† He said this would be a community decision, though his organization could offer guidance.† He relayed that his goal is to connect with local community providers already engaged in the delivery of those services to help that goal move forward.
affordable housing and homelessness: the state of florida housing report on affordable housing
Mr. Steve Smith, President of New Beginnings of Central Florida, thanked Commissioner Campione for hosting the event and the audience for attending.† He said that last summer, the state legislature recognized that more housing was needed, and commissioned a committee to return with suggestions and recommendations for what would be best for the state.† He commented that he would read several of the recommendations that the committee proposed.† He indicated that each year, the state collects around $330 million for the housing trust fund that funds the SHIP Program for local governments to use for local housing, and the money can also be used for bigger projects, such as the Woodwinds project in the City of Clermont; however, in the previous spring, the legislators only provided $80 million.† He remarked that the first recommendation was that the community should help the legislature understand its needs so that they will direct the housing trust fund money into housing.† He said that the second recommendation was for local governments to reduce impact fees or eliminate them for all affordable housing, reduce parking space requirements for construction due to land becoming more expensive, and to allow tiny homes and container homes.† He reported that the third recommendation was that because †65 percent of the SHIP Program funds that come into the county must be used for home ownership, there has been a great need for rental development, and there should be a greater focus on rental development when compared to home ownership.† He said that the fourth recommendation was to reduce barriers for low income households for rent; for example, the typical rental application was currently $50 to determine if an individual qualifies, and the deposit is generally approximately $1,000 or higher.† He stated that the committee recommended to drop the application fee to $5 and to reduce deposits by half, and that it was also suggested to reduce the set aside requirements.† He remarked that in Lake County, market rates were nearing approximately $1,000 per month for a one bedroom apartment and two bedrooms were getting close to $1,300 per month, and it was recommended that County and City Commissioners mandate that developers set aside 10 or 20 percent of those rates for individuals with low income and drop the rents correspondently.† He commented that an annual report given to the state discussed the following items: there was currently a shortage of 900,000 affordable homes in Florida; it currently took a wage of $16.10 per hour to afford a one bedroom house; there were over 40 percent of the people in central Florida with over 30 percent of their income used for rent; home ownership had dropped 62 percent to the same level that it was in 1960 for the state of Florida; and if the approximate $330 million from the housing trust fund was used for affordable housing, it would create 28,000 jobs, $1.3 billion in income and labor, and $3.7 billion in economic output.† He said that Florida ranks third from the bottom in the lack of affordable housing among states, and that steps should be taken to create more of it.† He stated that a recent report from United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties found that 73 percent of renters in Lake County were considered low income households, that 35 percent of them spend more than 56 percent of their income on rental housing, and that Lake County has an affordable rental housing shortage of 12,000 units.†
Commr. Campione said that his presentation was timely, and that there should be a workshop on affordable housing that could include municipalities.† She relayed that the County was discussing providing or changing regulations to accommodate tiny homes, and the County also received a recent affordable housing presentation from Habitat for Humanity.† She noted that some constituents expressed concerns about additional affordable housing attracting problems, such as crime, to the community, and there has to be a balance for the interests involved.†
discussion and next steps
Commr. Campione said that a key next step is reconvening with a greater focus on addressing rapid re-housing, affordability, the different components of the CoC and specifically the question of if a shelter is created, which individuals would be involved in operating it and what partnerships and parameters would be in place.†
Mr. Jeff Cole, County Manager, said he appreciated the opportunity to attend the forum, that he learned a considerable amount, and that he was looking forward to continuing the discussion.
Commr. Blake stated that the forum was very informative, and in his district there have been concerns about homeless individuals in the Ocala National Forest.
Commr. Breeden commented that the current meeting was a terrific first step, and that staff and community members had already been performing considerable research.† She remarked that this would be the first step of many, and expressed interest in seeing how the community can move forward together.
Commr. Campione mentioned that she did not want the present group to merely hold meetings and talk about problems, but rather focus on finding solutions.† She urged the audience to participate in future meetings and send further suggestions to the County.† She stated that the next meeting would be focusing on specific issues, and the present organizations and individuals would be part of an action group.† She thanked the audience on behalf of the BCC, and remarked that the BCC, County staff and the community all contributed to the current meeting.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 11:55 a.m.
timothy i. sullivan, chairman
NEIL KELLY, CLERK