Op-Ed

Homeless advocates achieve milestone

More than two decades ago, the homeless problem had reached epidemic levels in America, perhaps nowhere more severe and evident than in Miami. We couldn’t then have imagined one day having admitted and helping 100,000 homeless residents.

This milestone, which we have just achieved, is an opportunity for sincere reflection. But the bigger story and, I think, the more-important one is found looking at the faces of the 100,000 residents and the impact we have made on their lives, instead of just the numbers, which by themselves are impressive.

Since the late Alvah H. Chapman founded The Community Partnership for the Homeless, renamed in his honor to Chapman Partnership, our mission has been to serve the neediest members of our community by empowering homeless men, women and children to achieve a better way of life.

Today, Chapman Partnership operates two Homeless Assistance Centers with 800 beds located in Miami and Homestead. We help the homeless by providing a comprehensive support program that includes emergency housing, meals, health, dental and psychiatric care, daycare, job training, job placement and assistance with securing stable housing.

Our goal is the effective transitioning of the homeless to self-sufficiency, accomplished by a fundamental life transformation. There is, of course, much work to do, but the numbers attest to a level of success that is at once gratifying and inspiring, and it offers great hope for the future: The majority of our residents, 64 percent, are able to move to permanent or transitional housing, a rate more than four times the national average of 15 percent.

We owe much of the credit to the more than 20,000 volunteers who serve three hot meals a day, 365 days a year — more than 800,000 hot meals in the past year alone. We’re proud, as well, of our expanded family services helping 44 percent of the residents that are families with children. On any given night, there are 250 homeless children residing with us.

Our medical services treat each homeless patient with dignity and respect. Thus far, our two medical clinics have had more than 165,500 patient visits, and our mobile dental unit has performed 76,500 procedures.

We’re grateful beyond words for our growing partnerships with the private sector. Since 2011 alone, grants from JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo helped fund Employment Specialist Programs providing training in culinary arts, environmental services, security and more, with skills training in computer labs, resume writing, interviewing and assistance with basic work and business attire and materials. This program has helped more than 1,000 people obtain employment and start new careers on the road toward self-sufficiency and success.

We really are in it together. For us, “ partnership” isn’t just another word, it’s a core value. The Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the Public Health Trust and Citrus Health, among many others, contribute to the success of Chapman Partnership every day. Other organizations, too numerous to name but including churches, synagogues, civic groups and support organizations as well as departments at the city, county, and state levels, round out the continuum of homeless care in Miami.

At Chapman Partnership, it’s always been about a people-centric approach to a better Miami for everyone. Dedicated staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to make that possible by ensuring adequate funding from generous donors and foundations for the consistent delivery of programs and services for today and tomorrow. This ensures we can fulfill the promise of our mission to empower the homeless.

Alvah Chapman’s founding vision in 1993 was to effectively transform lives by proactively confronting homelessness at its root causes. While 100,000 admissions is a milestone and a testament to the commitment of the board of trustees, employees, volunteers and community partners, it is also a reminder of what Chapman would say: “We’ve come a long way, our prayers have been answered, but our job isn’t done yet.”

Thus far we’ve affected 100,000 homeless residents for the better — one life at a time.

Trish Bell is chairman of the board of the Chapman Partnership.

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