Anybody pitching easy solutions to homelessness might as well be selling prime real estate west of Sawgrass Mills, or a simple plan for turning Marlins into a 100-win team.
That’s not to say solutions for lessening or perhaps even ending homelessness don’t exist. It’s just that those solutions tend to involve money, resolve and lots of people and organizations pulling in the same direction.
Well, Fort Lauderdale, here’s some good news. Recently people have been showing resolve, getting money together and pulling in the same direction. Exactly how positive the results have been depends on whom you ask, but there have been some fairly concrete improvements.
Take the Broward Business Council on Homelessness. It was announced a year ago last month and in just a few months, it raised $1.2m. (It helps when organizations like AutoNation and Castle Group get involved.) Its first order of business: the longterm homeless camp in Stranahan Park, outside downtown’s main library. The city and county notified people living there that the camp would soon close – but instead of just kicking everybody out, the new partnership went in and worked to secure housing. Apartments were found for 77 people; three were reunited with family. Two months later, the coalition reported that 90 percent of those people were still in housing. That’s what success looks like.
Or take Judge Jack Tuter’s court. It launched at the beginning of the year and exists to help homeless people charged with things like public intoxication find the housing, services and counseling they need. Instead of rotating through the normal court system, they now enter a system designed to help.
These positive, potentially groundbreaking changes are detailed in a fascinating story by Jess Swanson in this month’s magazine. Jess is an experienced South Florida reporter who has written about homelessness many times before; I’m grateful to have her expertise and passion about this subject in Fort Lauderdale Magazine.
Of course, Jess’ story also gets into the difficulties surrounding the issue. Some who work with the homeless are holding off on the standing ovations; they’ve seen programs that simply move the homeless around or provide a substance-free gloss before. Time will tell.
Then there’s the development. A nonprofit organization wants to build a large affordable housing development on the south side of downtown. Many neighbors, particularly those in nearby Rio Vista, are unimpressed. One person’s reasonable response to unsustainable growth in downtown is another’s naked NIMBYism. Solutions: not always easy or straightforward.