Palm Beach County to open interim housing, new resource center for the homeless

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Next month, Palm Beach County will open a first of its kind resource center for the homeless that will offer interim and transitional housing and on-site help from county-wide providers.

The county said the Senator Phillip D. Lewis Center -- a cornerstone of its Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness -- would serve as a single access point to connect the homeless with housing.

"We're augmenting the services," said Marilyn Munoz, executive director of the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County.

The Lewis Center, Munoz said, while not a shelter, will also offer assessment, medical care, job training and placement services through Gulfstream Goodwill, Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches, The Lord's Place and the Department of Health.

Recent statistics showed that more people were homeless in Florida -- about 60,000 people -- than in 46 other states.

In Palm Beach County, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development said an average of 3,228 people were homeless any given day.

Another 1,590 children in Palm Beach County, according to the Florida Department of Education, were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless -- a 10% increase from 2011.

"I'm a mom. I'm a Christian lady. And, I just need to take care of my children," said Nona McKenney, 40, a mother of nine and Palm Beach County resident who has been homeless since 2010. "That's been my main priority."

McKenney, who lost her home in Lake Worth after she missed two rent payments, said she hoped the new resource center would be able to help her and her family after shelters turned her away because of the size of her family.

"I paid my rent. I paid my lights. I paid my water bill. And, I kept food on the table. I put clothes on my children's backs. I just didn't have good savings skills," she said.

"I think my children are embarrassed. I think it hurts them that everybody else has a house but them. We slept outside one year ago. We slept behind my children's school. They blame themselves. My kids think it's their fault. No storm can last forever. It can't be bad forever. It just can't."

The center, in the 1100 block of 45th Street, was expected to be the first of several the county hoped to open.

Its initial costs were paid for by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, Community Development Block Grant Funds, Palm Beach County and the City of West Palm Beach.

After a ribbon cutting on June 25th, the center will open in stages beginning on July 2nd.

The Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County can be reached at (561) 355-HOME (4663).

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