Homelessness can seem like a problem that is too intricate and widespread to be solved by a single city. Fortunately, this is only partially true. While Hollywood alone may not be able to end homelessness, our city can still help those experiencing homelessness in a positive and permanent way.
Sadly, those who are the most affected by policies often are those who have little to no input in their creation. The safety and security of those currently staying in emergency housing in Hollywood depend not only on how our country works to curb homelessness, but also on how our city addresses this important matter. The voices and concerns of the homeless deserve to be heard and their questions answered. It is the duty of our city’s government to address their worries and work proactively to ensure that those experiencing homelessness receive the care and attention they deserve. As a city, we can ensure that the vicious cycle of homelessness ends.
In order to shed light on this important issue, I asked each of Hollywood’s mayoral candidates for their plan to help those experiencing homelessness in our city if they are elected.
Commissioner Patricia Asseff
Homelessness has always been a great concern for me, Hollywood, County and Cities. My main concerns were the homeless living on the streets. I was appointed to the Continuum of Care Board of Broward County in 2014. I chaired the Performance & Outcomes Needs and Gaps Assessment Committee (PONG) and truly received an education and understanding of the depth and variety of needs presented by homeless families, disabled, veterans, foster children and individuals. Their Mission is “Housing First”, to place as many as possible to have a place to Live and re-built their life and future.
Laurie-Anne Walton at that time was our Cities Homeless Coordinator. She met with the homeless in all areas of our City and did the Point in Time Count to find where they lived and how many people were living on the streets, parks and encampments. Broward County is down 12% and unsheltered is down 5%, there is so much more work that needs to be done.
Broward Outreach Center, Women’s Center, Jubilee Kitchen, all the Broward Partnerships and many other entities have been working together to make a difference. We are so fortunate for their mission, passion and dedication.
Thank you to the “Friends of the Broward Outreach Center” and their involvement with our Hollywood Organization in making a difference.
One of my top priorities is the Quality of Life for all Hollywood residents and Public Safety.
As the Mayor this is my Plan with a Community Partnership:
• Plan to invite all charitable organizations, developers, community and residents on Outreach Initiatives.
• Involvement of social workers, mental health professionals, food banks, hospitals, religious organizations of every denomination and business owners.
• Police Department to help unite homeless with their families, with buying them a ticket to return to their families.
• Organizations creating return home packages to get back home. Such as toilet accessories, stamps, food vouchers, toothbrushes, toothpaste etc.
• City to have a registered list of all “Housing First” rentals, Landlords and tenants, contact numbers.
• City to maintain a list of all social services available within the City for reference.
• Plan to help educate the community on Homelessness, job opportunities, and training.
• Have a place where they can shower and dress for a job.
• Look for resources for dental restoration. ( Nova Dental School and Broward College Dental Hygiene).
• Have resources for Medicaid and other options for health insurance.
It is the year 2016, and the City of Hollywood, like many other cities in Broward County, continues to find itself with a seemingly perpetual population of homeless persons who need help to find their way toward recovery.
Homelessness plagues so many in our society, from all walks of life: veterans, families, the mentally ill, those who have fallen victim to drug and alcohol addiction, someone who lost their job and didn’t have a friend or family to turn to, and so many others. As a society, we should do everything we can to help our homeless, by connecting them with local outreach and recovery programs that will help them get back on their feet.
Given that in our governmental structure, homeless programs are mainly administered and funded by the county, the State and HUD, our mission, as a city, should focus on homeless outreach, assessment and resource linkage.
We need to reach out to the homeless that we find in Hollywood, assess their needs, and refer and transport them to the county, state, nonprofit or faith-based program that best suits their individual needs. There are programs that offer medical care and substance addiction recovery and others that offer social service counseling, reemployment services and more.
In assessing the individual needs of our homeless, a second focus of our mission should also be family reunification, where we would help the homeless find their family anywhere in the U.S. and call them for rescue and help. Once a homeless person’s family is found, we can help by assisting the homeless person with a bus ticket or transportation to where their family is. Government programs are necessary, but family reunification is probably the best thing whenever possible.
Through implementation of these strategies, reaching out to the homeless, assessing their needs, and referring and transporting them to where they can get help, we will achieve a reduction in the homeless population in our city, an improvement of the perception of the quality of life in Hollywood, and a reduction in the costs that our police and fire-rescue departments have to bear in responding to repeated homeless related calls for service: loitering, panhandling, public intoxication, non-emergency transportation to the hospital and more.
By helping each other, we all benefit. Together we can do great things.
I am deeply saddened when the homeless are not respected as members of our society and I am enlightened when I hear stories about people helping people in need. The homeless are our brothers, mothers, fathers, sisters, friends, and neighbors. This is not a Hollywood issue solely, it is your issue as well. As a young boy, I remember when my father used to come home from working late evenings at a hospital, he would take surplus hospital food and give it to the homeless as he went home. Weather it was a cold sandwich or a beverage, he told me as a kid that they were always grateful because most people would ignore them. That taught me a lesson as a young boy that I have not forgotten. The same compassion we share with one another as family and friends can also be helpful to strangers at times, especially those in the greatest need. Newspapers have written that most families are just one or two paychecks away from being homeless. Many of us have been at that point or close to it and I’m sure you were grateful for any helping hand available at your time of need. Below are some of my strategies on homelessness in our city, but I know there is a lot more that we can do, not only as a city, but as individuals who respect human dignity. No one should experience homelessness.
Strategy # 1: Prevention and education. Regardless of the economic deficit facing our city, we cannot ignore our struggling neighbors and families with their basic needs for housing. Hollywood will fund programs for families and individuals struggling to pay rent temporarily. When a household loses their income, Hollywood will offer temporary assistance to help them get over the hump for a short duration. Hollywood will also start an outreach campaign to get help for people with a substance abuse or mental health problems.
Strategy # 2: Fund Rapid Housing Program and Housing First Program: These programs have had great successes in places like San Francisco, Seattle, and Milwaukee. The programs will help the homeless get back into a home and help them get to a place that they’re stable and able to take over their rent.
Strategy # 3: Veteran Grants: Grants will be made available for veterans to have access to housing and programs to give them stability in the long term.
Strategy # 4: Increase Shelter Beds: Increase the number of beds in shelters for individuals and families.
Strategy # 5: Job training programs: Partner with existing programs at 211, Good Will, the Salvation Army, and places of worship to prepare people for successful living (creating a resume, interviewing skills, budgeting, etc.).
Strategy # 6: Food access: Hollywood will support programs that provide food to the homeless.
Strategy # 7: Volunteer recruitment: We will seek out volunteers who can provide the homeless with services many of us take for granted, that include hair grooming, nail polishing, professional work attire, and air conditioned places for rest and recovery.
Strategy # 8: Small Business support: As I’ve travelled our city regarding my campaign, I’ve learned that there are already some pretty terrific small business owners who are offering their services to the homeless. Whether that’s providing laundry services at a laundromat or providing food for food pantries, our city, our society is better because of them. These businesses don’t seek any reward or recognition, they do it because they care. Hollywood will support these businesses through business marketing opportunities and by providing educational materials regarding homeless programs available throughout the city.
Senator Eleanor Sobel
Homelessness can strike at any moment. Sudden unemployment, a health crisis, or a family breakup can cause seismic changes leading to the loss of a home and the customary way of life. As a public servant and leader, it is my job to quickly and effectively address this problem. But I cannot do this alone.
First, we must accept the idea that homelessness is a societal problem with many causes and potential solutions. Therefore, innovative thinking is a must. A comprehensive support program that includes access to emergency housing, health, dental and psychiatric care, drug treatment, day care, job training, and job placement must be implemented. Programs that ease the transition from temporary housing to a more permanent solution must be prioritized and appropriately funded. Deploying social workers helps to change the anti-social behaviors and addictions of many of the homeless.
Ushering families from homelessness to self-sufficiency is a daunting but entirely achievable and worthy goal. As Mayor, I will work tirelessly to address homelessness in Hollywood by focusing on finding the available, necessary resources.