Eckerd, Brevard Schools and Steadytown take on Homelessness

Eckerd has partnered with Brevard Public Schools and Steadytown Inc. to provide case management services to rapidly rehouse children and families that are experiencing homelessness.  Eckerd has named its case management services in connection with this community partnership – Brevard Family Support Services.  Although several organizations and programs aim to help families facing and experiencing homelessness, a unique feature of this program is that rehousing is only the first step.  The overall goal is to keep families from facing homelessness again.

“It is truly great to see families get a second chance at being successful,” said Stanley Brizz, Manager of Programs for Eckerd in Brevard. “That is what Eckerd is all about – giving families the second chances they need to not only survive, but to thrive.”

This new collaborative initiative aims to support Brevard County in a move toward systematically reducing the number of families experiencing homeless by means of an evidence-based frontline assessment that identifies the key areas in these families’ lives that are at the root of the issue.  Once this pre-assessment is completed, a unique case plan is created with these families that are founded on building for success.

Most of the families served through Eckerd’s Brevard Family Support Services are classified as having moderate acuity scores from the assessment.  This means, for instance, that the parents are not necessarily experiencing chronic homelessness for years or conversely just in need of one-time cash assistance, but may have just fallen on hard times.  Families could be living in parks, in cars, and yes, even on the streets of Brevard County.  In some cases large families could be “doubled-up” with other families, living in one bedroom of a friend’s home or in their living room.  The moderate acuity may also mean that the parents are employed but do not earn enough income to maintain stable housing. Additionally, it may be that they need direction in how to budget better or other services that address other threats to family stability: gambling, substance abuse, domestic violence in the home, mental health issues, etc.

Steadytown had already taken the first steps a little over a year ago by starting off with a small team of dedicated housing case managers.  This year, Eckerd , Brevard Public Schools, and Steadytown pooled their resources in order to the expand services and help more families.  Five Housing Case Managers, also known as Family Coaches, now work for Eckerd in partnership with Steadytown’s Steady Families program, with one more case manager soon to be added. Keith Donald, CEO of Steadytown, Inc., shares that since October, “the program has already helped rehouse 25 families, prevented 5 evictions and provided emergency shelter for 25 families.”

Even while dealing with homelessness, many children in such families still make it to school.  It is estimated that over 1,600 children in Brevard County are dealing with homelessness.  Of course, these students are not usually anxious to share the fact that they are without a home with anyone at school, including faculty.  The hope is that these students will be identified by teachers or staff that can get the family the assistance they need.  One case manager with Eckerd’s Brevard Family Support Services serves as a special liaison to a Brevard Public Schools’ Students in Transition liaison to help ensure that not only do these families find stable housing, but that their children attending school stay academically successful and involved in positive extracurricular activities. This case manager works to train teachers and administrative staff about the impact homelessness has on children and how school personnel can work with students in this situation to ameliorate the stigma that the students feel about their homelessness.

“As great and as all-encompassing as this collaboration is, it really would not be possible without the network of community support it has continued to receive,” Brizz said.  “A network of landlords, hotels, and community agencies has been instrumental in working together with us to make this successful.”

Several parents helped by the program have rental history and background issues that many landlords normally would not take a chance on in housing.  However, the families being brought to them by Eckerd’s case management team and Steadytown come with the backing of the program and a structured stability plan that has a high rate of success and integrity.  As for external organizational support, Brevard Homeless Coalition, Brevard Public Schools, Brevard C.A.R.E.S., United Way of Brevard, Hope of Brevard, Daily Bread, Family Promise of Brevard, 211, The US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Housing For Homeless, Catholic Charities of Central Florida, Housing Authority of Brevard County, Early Learning Coalition of Brevard, and Salvation Army are just a few of the supporting organizations and agencies that have really helped drive this effort forward.

Brizz adds, “It says a lot about Brevard County when all of these different agencies and community partners can come together in support of our program to address this issue of homelessness.  It is refreshing to see a spirit of constructive cooperation between us all in helping each other that allows us to effectively and efficiently combat homelessness.”

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