WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The pandemic has changed how many of us operate -- even the war on homelessness.
Out of safety due to COVID-19, Palm Beach County won't be conducting a Point-In-Time homeless count during January.
The count is used to identify the number of homeless people and serves as a qualifier for state funds that are used for housing and other services. The county said the funds will not be impacted by skipping the Point-In-Time count this year.
Still, officials are reminding property owners of their importance to end homelessness.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Rebound South Florida
"Shawn," who is 35 years old, is feeling good about entering a new year. He has a roof over his head to work on a computer, make his bed and store his belongings.
“2021 is going to be my year -- where it all starts," he said. "I have a home to come back to every day."
Just two months ago, he was living along a busy West Palm Beach intersection. It is a cycle he has faced for years.
"I've been homeless on-and-off for 17 years because of substance abuse and each time I bounce back on my feet and start to do well inevitably have fallen off," said "Shawn."
He and others like Francky-Pierre Paul, A Different Shade of Love, Inc. founder and CEO who distributes items like blankets during the colder months, worries about the number of people still in need of permanent housing.
“We have a lot of people couch surfing. We have a lot of people who are behind bushes that are not being seen," Pierre-Paul said.
Eva Pustelnikova, a Palm Beach County Community Services Division housing specialist, said allocating resources and providing housing takes community support.
"We need affordable property," Pustelnikova said. "From Boca Raton to Jupiter all the way out into the Glades and Pahokee."
The county wants to remind property owners of the SMART Landlord Campaign, where landlords offer affordable housing to end the homelessness cycle.
"It's a true second chance at life. It really is," she said. "We need real estate everywhere. In every part of the county."
Currently, the county is focusing on studios, affordable one bedroom apartments and room shares. Every tenant has a case manager who provides assistance to the client and serves as the landlord's immediate point of contact. Landlords also receive timely rent payments with help from the organization placing the tenant.
"I wouldn’t be able to have a place to go to if it weren't for property owners willing to rent to people like me off the street and give me a chance to get back on my feet since I'm coming with nothing," "Shawn" said. "It's worked out for them because now they have a well-paying tenant every week -- but they had to take that chance on me in the beginning. And I'm glad that they were here to do that.”
Click here to learn more about the SMART Landlord Campaign or call 561-355-4742.