The Journey Home
Dave suffers from chronic illnesses and had been living in the woods for five years. After going through a difficult divorce, Sha-Libra and her children stayed with family, but after a while, they were forced to leave with nowhere else to go. Luis is a veteran who survived a spinal injury and two heart attacks but needed help getting back on his feet. And, after struggling with addiction and living on the streets for thirty years, Lattanya finally worked up the courage to make a change. Every story is as unique as the person living it, but they all have something in common. Today, they each have a place to call their own.
When an individual or family walks through our doors, they begin their journey home. The ultimate goal of a housing-focused shelter like the Coalition is to make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to ending homelessness, which is why our organization employs the Housing First approach, while also offering programs and services for those not eligible for housing assistance programs. In the past three years, 2,772 Coalition guests have moved from one of our programs into stable housing.
Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), which is one component of the Housing First model, focuses on chronically homeless individuals who often suffer from disabilities — people like Dave. After living in the woods for five years, he came to the Coalition where his case manager, Malik, immediately helped him get medical treatment. Together, they completed the necessary paperwork for housing. Dave is now living in an apartment through our community’s PSH program, and he says, “I’m just really thankful for Malik and the Coalition. It’s only because of this place that I have my own home now.” Through the program, Dave will continue to receive financial assistance and supportive services for as long as he needs them. Though the Coalition has placed 207 chronically homeless men and women into permanent housing over the past three years, it is estimated that 1,000 others in our area still need housing.
When Sha-Libra arrived at the Coalition with her three young children, she was the perfect candidate for Rapid Re-Housing (RRH), a Housing First approach that focuses on the quick placement of a family into rental units with time-limited financial assistance and supportive services. Working with her case manager, Ramon, Sha-Libra placed her children in daycare, so she could look for a job while completing the application for housing. “I had moments when I wanted to give up, but being at the Coalition was all worth it. The first time I walked through the door of my new home, it felt like life had been given to me again. I felt like, for the first time in a while, that there is hope,” she says.
Luis is a U.S. Army Veteran who was in a diving accident while on vacation, causing a life-threatening infection in his spine. At the time, he was living in Germany but decided to move back to the United States to access the medical benefits he’d earned while serving in the Army. But upon his arrival in Orlando, he suffered two heart attacks, making it impossible for him to get back on his feet on his own. A contact at Veteran’s Administration (VA) referred him to the Coalition, where he was assigned to Veteran Services Case Manager, Al. Luis worked with Al and the VA to secure housing through Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH). “I woke up the first morning in my own apartment and I finally felt free again. I’m working on taking care of my health, so that’s my priority right now. I’m so happy, I feel like I could dance in the streets!”
While Dave was eligible for Permanent Supportive Housing, Sha-Libra and her family for Rapid Re-Housing, and Luis for VASH, there are countless others who simply don’t qualify and might slip through the cracks without the additional programs and services offered by shelters. Lattanya is one them.
Lattanya arrived at the Coalition determined to rebuild her life. After living on the streets and struggling with addiction for three decades, she enrolled in the First Steps Substance Abuse Recovery Program, where she met her case manager, Stefanie. “Lattanya came here with a drive and passion to succeed like I’d never seen before. As her case manager, it has been a joy to watch her reclaim her life, one day at a time,” says Stefanie. After graduating from the program, Lattanya secured a full-time job and worked with Stefanie to find an affordable, safe place close to public transportation. Today, she is living her dream of a simple life. “I just want to go to work, go home, lie down and live like a productive person,” she says.
Each year, nearly 2,700 people arrive at our doors. Their paths to us are inestimably varied and often harrowing. It is our job to help them on the final leg of their journey – to stabilize, to focus, and to thrive. Because their next stop is home.