Downtown Miami

Street-level homeless services expanding in Miami

Members of the Lazarus Project, Ivan Romero, housing supervisor, Lazaro Trueba, program administrator, and Adrian Mesa, psychiatric advance registered nurse practitioner, right, talk with Alec Johnson, a homeless man, as he receives his medication on June 7, 2015.
Members of the Lazarus Project, Ivan Romero, housing supervisor, Lazaro Trueba, program administrator, and Adrian Mesa, psychiatric advance registered nurse practitioner, right, talk with Alec Johnson, a homeless man, as he receives his medication on June 7, 2015. Miami Herald staff

An effort to help homeless men and women by taking medical and social services to the streets of Miami is poised to expand thanks to new funding from the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.

The Trust’s executive board will vote on a grant next month to support the Lazarus Project, a program that Camillus House and Health launched a year ago to treat people with mental illnesses who refused to enter shelters or seek medical services. Over the last 12 months, a team of city outreach workers has gone out every morning with medical health practitioners and social workers to find a small group of patients, give them their medication and process benefits paperwork.

The end game has been to get clients into housing after years on the streets and back into some semblance of a regular life.

Through a partnership with the city of Miami and the Miami Coalition for the Homeless, they served 21 clients, 10 of whom showed progress behaviorally and medically and were placed in housing. Another eight are under continued care, and one was placed in involuntary psychiatric care, according to a grant application.

Now, barring unforeseen circumstances, Camillus House will expand the program, starting with the receipt of a $635,000 grant from the tax-funded Homeless Trust in October. Camillus House, the city and the Miami Coalition for the Homeless are contributing another $300,000 toward the project. They’re also enlisting the help of Legal Services of Greater Miami.

Camillus House expects to treat 120 men and women — more than 10 percent of the county’s on-street homeless population.

“I do think this is a game-changer in Miami. I really do,” said Camillus House CEO Shed Boren.

If the Homeless Trust approves the grant next month, it will be another sign of easing tensions between the Trust and downtown Miami boosters over the agency’s spending on the county’s homeless hub. Also in October, the Trust is launching a task force in a specific area of downtown in order to place 91 homeless men and women into housing units.

Boren said he plans to have Lazarus Project teams work directly with the Homeless Trust’s downtown task force, and then branch out into other communities. The grant application specifically mentions Miami Beach as a target area.

Ron Book, chairman of the Homeless Trust, said the county has been working with and supporting the Lazarus Project since its inception, but needed to weigh the program through a competitive process before releasing such a substantial sum. Now, the hope is to build on the last year’s efforts.

“Results thus far have been encouraging with several of our most chronic residents agreeing to services, and ultimately, housed,” Book said in a statement. “The program expansion is a great opportunity to multiply the program’s early successes.”

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