One of Miami’s largest homeless shelters is closing a program that for more than a decade has given hundreds of men and women living on the streets free access to showers and hot meals.
Starting Friday, Camillus House will begin a scale-down of its “day center,” limiting entry to the first 110 men and 40 women who show up each day at its Allapattah campus off Northwest Seventh Avenue. Come July 1, when the county’s Homeless Trust is expected to end its financial support due to recent federal funding cuts, the program will end, potentially leaving hundreds to seek daytime shelter elsewhere.
“It’s something that’s important and we think met a great need, and it’s unfortunate it’s going away,” said Eddie Gloria, acting chief operating officer of Camillus House.
It’s something that’s important and we think met a great need, and it’s unfortunate it’s going away
Eddie Gloria, chief operating officer of Camillus House
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According to Gloria, the day center currently serves about 340 people a day who are not shelter residents but can seek meals or receive clean clothes and use Camillus’ postal center. In the last month and a half, as federal dollars paid through the county’s Homeless Trust have been reduced, more than 1,600 people have sought aid — not every one of them every day, but still far beyond the 150 people a day Camillus House has been budgeted to serve, Gloria said.
Camillus House sought a private sponsor for the program, which cost a little more than $1 million, but was unsuccessful. Without additional funds, Gloria said the day center has become too expensive to continue.
The shelter’s daytime services have served an important need for the downtown homeless population and in Miami, where roughly 600 people live on the streets, many of them considered chronically homeless. It’s also of importance to the area’s business owners and residents, who worry the end of the program will mean an increase in the number of homeless men and women on the street during the day.
“Where are these people going to go?” asks Raul Guerrero, a resident at Loft 2 and member of the Downtown Neighbors Alliance.
We told everybody ‘you better be prepared to find solutions,’ and I guess they haven’t
Ron Book, Miami-Dade Homeless Trust chairman
The program’s pending closure seems likely to reignite old tensions between the Homeless Trust and downtown boosters, which have occasionally clashed over the money spent in the area with the county’s largest concentration of homeless men and women. Downtown residents plan to attend Friday’s meeting of the Homeless Trust executive board to urge the organization to commit new funding to the program, arguing that the agency has enough in reserves to easily commit more money.
Homeless Trust Chairman Ron Book says that’s not happening given the recent cuts in federal funding. He said he told providers six months ago that they all had one year to find new funding sources for programs on the chopping block. The Trust allocated $200,000 in reserves this year to fund the day center through June.
“We told everybody ‘you better be prepared to find solutions,’ and I guess they haven’t,” he said, adding that the Trust has to prioritize programs. “It’s not providing beds, and it’s not providing shelters … Folks out there think the Trust has unlimited resources. We do not.”