LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — On any given day, a Palm Beach County organization is helping more than 800 children who are homeless or close to it.
They need academic and emotional support and a chance to feel like any other kid.
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Playing ball, on the playground, throwing a Frisbee, even taking a turn with our camera. Project Grow gives these kids a chance to blossom.
"One of the things we notice is that after a while they can actually relax because they feel safe," said Daron Morse, the youth educational programs director for Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches.
Morse runs Project Grow, an after-school and summer camp program for dozens of kids whose families have fallen on hard times and are part of the Adopt-A-Family housing program.
"We're really thinking about serving the whole child," Morse said. "So we're looking at their emotional development, their academics, and providing services wherever they can fit in."
Adopt-A-Family CEO Matt Constantine said the need for housing and wrap-around services has only grown year-over-year and spiked in the past three to six months.
"Every day our phones ring all day long," Constantine said. "We get emails coming in, and I think the housing affordability crisis we are having right now has impacted so many families and people in our community."
Constantine said Adopt-A-Family serves about 300 families at any given time, but the wait list is longer than they can keep up with.
"It's become an issue in our community right now," Constantine said. "It's so bad we're kind of outnumbered and we need help."
Constantine said Adopt-A-Family works with families to help them avoid homelessness by paying their rent and utility bills, among other services. For families that are experiencing homelessness, Adopt-A-Family provides emergency shelter.
Sadly, though, Constantine said the need right now is outweighing the resources available.
"We're actually hearing from a lot of families we used to not hear from," Constantine said. "Families with two parents working full-time. Never had to reach out for help before, and now they are finding themselves in that situation because their lease went up by $800 or $1000 a month."
Stable housing is a key part of the Adopt-A-Family program, and many of the children involved live at Julian Place in Lake Worth Beach, one of the housing units that's part of this operation.
Then the kids come right across the street for for Project Grow's summer camp and after-school program.
"A typical child that comes to us at Project Grow has moved four, five, six times in the previous two years," Constantine said. "They are behind academically. They've changed schools. They've been through things that a lot of kids shouldn't have been through at this point in their life."
Project Grow provides them that consistency and stability that they need to bloom.
"We really try to meet them where the kids are when they come to us," Constantine said.
Project Grow just received a $25,000 grant from State Farm to continue providing services to children in the community.
If you'd like more information or need services from Adopt-A-Family, click here.