Homelessness is a complex social problem with multiple dimensions. According to the Homeless Trust Census, as of January 24, 2019, Miami-Dade County has a homeless population of 3472 individuals, 1008 of them unsheltered.
Homelessness comes at a very high cost to individuals, communities and systems of care.
Numerous studies demonstrate that communities save money by providing permanent supportive housing to people experiencing homelessness. Homeless individuals are more likely to suffer from chronic medical conditions and complications due to housing instability. Emergency rooms, crisis response and public safety systems are utilized at a much higher rate by homeless individuals.
In short, it is proven to be more cost-effective to provide permanent supportive housing than to leave someone on the streets.
Hermanos de la Calle (FHC) is a Christian faith-based non-profit organization serving the
homeless population of Miami-Dade County. The mission of FHC is to offer help and support to
homeless individuals, as well as to create awareness and motivate local communities to volunteer in different ways to help the homeless gain back their dignity and
place in society. Many community members have expressed their willingness to help and serve others, but they don’t know how. Fundación Hermanos de la Calle has given them a way to serve those in need.
FHC offers five core components in order to meet its mission:
Every other week, a large group of volunteers cook meals and go out in the evening to offer
food and help to the homeless living in the streets of Miami. Around 80 volunteers cover every corner of downtown Miami looking for the homeless. We visit them where they sleep and offer a meal as an excuse to establish a connection, and through a friendly conversation we learn about their stories and struggles and show them that we care and want to help.
Poverty, lack of affordable housing, uncertain physical and mental health, addictions, racial inequalities, immigration, and community and family breakdown are the common factors that leave individuals without a support system to deal with life’s challenges.
During the outreach, volunteers identify the needs of those individuals willing to receive help
from FHC, and assess what the next step will be in order to provide them with the resources
to meet such needs.
The big question is why they are homeless. The answer ranges from loneliness, to addictions, high rents, illness, mental health problems, unemployment. Once we identify the reasons, we find a way to deal with them all. We try to connect them with their family, if they have one. Sometimes their loved ones are willing to help, and we provide the connection - even with the use of social media if they have lost contact. We help them reunite with their families, which might live in another city, state, or country.
Once individual needs are identified, FHC staff proceeds to assign a home for the individual. If an individual has a substance abuse problem, we send them to a detox or rehabilitation facility the same day and provide housing when they are discharged.
FHC provides affordable housing in a home-like environment, where a group of strangers become brothers and learn to live together and support each other as a family and develop social and interpersonal skills that will prepare them for independent living.
Our model of house-sharing makes having a home possible and sustainable. We group 7 or 8 individuals in a house, each one of them makes a rent payment of $300/$400 per month. Even individuals on government assistance programs can afford to pay that amount. Once placed in a house, they are granted a “grace period” of approximately two months to recover physically if need be. Once they are able, we assist them with finding employment and require that they start to work. If they present a disability and are not able to hold a regular job, we have a range of different activities in which they can generate some income and develop self-determination once they feel empowered to make their own decisions.
All individuals housed by FHC receive professional services and support from a case manager and a residence administrator, as well as peer support from other members of the house. FHC staff connects them with different resources such as medical and mental health services, substance abuse recovery services, job search, and government assistance if eligible.
Homeless Individuals have no access to the resources they need to get a job, or to receive adequate medical treatment. We have given a home to individuals with chronic illnesses, such as cancer and diabetes, which are impossible to deal with while living on the streets. We have also sheltered individuals with addictions and several mental health diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, generalized anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others. Once they receive proper medical treatment, they regain functionality and can make a more positive contribution to society.
FHC staff and volunteers provide a variety of recreational and pro-social activities oriented to
guide individuals through the process of regaining their autonomy and identity. FHC assigns a
volunteer to each one on the residents who acts as a sponsor/personal coach, and who will
serve as companion through the journey or reconnecting to the joy of living, until they regain
their self-sufficiency and feel ready to face the challenges of everyday life on their own.
Approximately 700 volunteers from different communities - Key Biscayne, Brickell,
Coral Gables, Sunny Isles, Aventura, Doral, Kendall, West Palm Beach, Pompano Beach - have joined Hermanos de la Calle, and currently participate in all activities that FHC has developed to serve the homeless. Through its mission, Hermanos de la Calle has accomplished to get 256 of homeless individuals off the streets, has provided housing for approximately 90 men and 20 women, successfully assisted 50 in finding and maintaining employment, reunited 60 homeless individuals with family members, and helped 70 individuals affected by substance abuse to maintain sobriety. All of this with only the financial aid from the charitable donations of members and community-based fundraisers.