Woman with autistic son hopes to benefit from $4.5 million in grants from DCF to help homeless

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - With nowhere to turn, resident Leonora Robinson was looking for answers, and looking for help.

"It's been tough," she said. "It's been unbelievable stress on me."

By the end of this week, Robinson and her autistic son Matthew will be living on the streets.

The Department of Children and Families Tuesday announced that nearly $72 million in grants will be given to homeless shelters across the state, and 10 different organizations in West Palm Beach will receive nearly $5 million of that. Robinson is hoping to benefit from this.

Daniel Gibson, the program director for The Lord's Place, says in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment in West Palm Beach, a person making minimum wage would have to work 137 hours a week. For those who are unemployed, it's even harder, especially with children who have special needs.

Last month, Robinson was served an eviction notice for being $5,000 behind in rent.

"I can't sleep because I never know when the note is going to be on the door," said Robinson.

She admits she didn't pay because she has no income. She said her husband of 15 years -- who she said makes $96,000 a year -- left her and her son last year to fend for themselves.

"My husband wants me to give him away and I will not do that," said Robinson.

Unable to work because her son needs 24-hour care, she got by on food stamps and selling $10 t-shirts to support her son and his disability, but it hasn't been enough.

Gibson of The Lord's Place said stories like Robinson's are heartbreaking, but not unexpected in Palm Beach County.

According to the Lord's Place -- a nonprofit that provides supportive housing to nearly 500 homeless men, women, and children -- the average age of a homeless person in the county is nine. Matthew is seven.

"Without question, there is a huge need for more affordable housing in Palm Beach County," said Gibson.

On Tuesday night, The Lord's Place received $700,000 in grants from the Department of Children and Families.  The funds are substantial, but the need is great.

"The cost of living in Palm Beach County has gotten astronomical," said Gibson. "If we don't address the issue of affordable housing in this community, the issue will rise."

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