Palm Beach County non-profits work to place homeless in affordable housing

Posted at 7:34 PM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-15 19:35:11-04

Palm Beach County leaders say too many people are on the streets because there aren't enough places to house them. Groups that help the homeless held an event called Project Homeless Connect Friday to shed light on the issue and bring some relief to anyone needing help.

Around 200 homeless people were in attendance, just a fraction of the estimated 1,400 homeless people the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County has counted.

48 agencies that help the homeless came together at the event to feed, render medical care, give hair cuts and pass out helpful information to homeless people.

According to Michelle Howell Phillips, Outreach Program Coordinator at the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County, many of the county's homeless are working individuals and families, who simply don't make enough money to afford rent.

"The majority of the homeless in our county are not homeless for any other reason than affordable housing," Phillips says. "They can't afford $1000 or $1200 a month for rent."

Thugerella Burgess, who is a homeless veteran, says the high prices make it nearly impossible to break the cycle of homelessness, because it's too hard to get in to an apartment.

"They ask for security deposit, first and last month's rent," Burgess says.

"Say rent is a thousand dollars a month," Phillips says, "And you need that first, last and security. That's $3000, not to mention what you need for the deposit for the power and the deposit for the water."

The Homeless Coalition helps groups across Palm Beach County that assist homeless individuals and families with those costs, providing the extra money it takes to get into a rental. In the past two years, the homeless coalition has spent more than half-a-million-dollars doing so for 750 people.

Burgess says even with the help, there are still hurdles to jump.

"People are just not willing to rent with people that don't have good credit or good rental history," Burgess says. "It's like they don't want to give people a second chance."

The Homeless Coalition says the problem highlights the need for more affordable housing in Palm Beach County, asking landlords to step up and work with the county on getting working, homeless families into homes.