Published On: Fri, Jan 4th, 2019

Palm Beach County Focuses on Helping its Homeless Veterans

By Robert S Weinroth

Palm Beach County Mayor, Mack Bernard (pictured with County Commissioners Hal Valache, Gregg Weiss, County Administrator Verdenia Baker, FPL External Affairs Manager Sophia Eccleston and me), announced a campaign aimed at providing every homeless veteran with a place to live. The initiative, “From Serving to Served,” is being initiated by a number or our community’s organizations, nonprofits and the county. They are banding together in an effort to help 100 homeless veterans get off the streets over the next 111 days.

The initiative is aimed at jump-starting the goal of achieving functional zero (providing housing options for all homeless veterans) as explained by James E Green, director for Palm Beach County’s community services department. It was pointed out that veterans are not going to be forced off the streets into housing against their will but they will be offered alternatives to their current situation.

Wendy Tippet, the county’s Human Services director noted,”Our challenge is about providing services on our streets,” with housing being a part of the services being offered. Communities across the nation are trying to achieve the same goal.

“If homeless, we want to find [veterans] ways to get housed either temporarily or directly into permanent. If they’re in need of other services, transportation or food, then we want to get them connected to those services,” Green said. “We’re finding ways to provide support necessary for veterans to be more self-sufficient.”

The campaign will seek the assistance of community groups identifying the vets and their needs, then prioritizing them. Teams will go into parks and other public areas where homeless are known to live and work with veterans already known to the organizations.

The county’s Homeless Continuum of Care is working with several groups, including the PBC community services department, the West Palm Beach Veteran Affairs Medical Center, Stand Down House and Faith, Hope, Love, Charity.

It is estimatedO hat about 100 veterans are homeless in Palm Beach County, including ones who are in temporary housing, according to Karen Collins, a social worker and the supervisor of the homeless program at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. The county’s most recent federally-mandated point-in-time count of the homeless, done last January, showed a 73 percent increase in the number of homeless veterans compared to a count done in 2017 but that increase may be due to better counting methodology. The 2019 count, which will be taken on January 24th and 25th, will serve as a barometer of the trend in the homeless vet population.

To facilitate the delivery of services, the Veteran’s Administration dispatches teams to soup kitchens, halfway houses and street corners to find homeless veterans and get help them get treatment. The VA is opening a mental-health “domiciliary”with about 50 beds for homeless vets.

Programs also help the veterans find work, food and transportation, and eligible veterans can be set up with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s vouchers for rental assistance.

The county oversees the SMART program where landlords can set up affordable housing for residents with extremely low incomes or who are homeless. This is in addition to the  Senator Philip D. Lewis Center in West Palm Beach (the county’s homeless facility) with plans under considertation to open a second county similar facility in the near future.

The County Commission in December signed off on pursuing the new facility and has made ending veteran homelessness a legislative priority for 2019.

Another facility called Village of Valor is being built on the Lake Worth and Palm Springs border by Faith, Love, Hope, Charity and is expected to be operational in 2020, according to its deputy director, Casimiro Crockett. Village of Valor will have 157 affordable units for veterans and their families.

 

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 27 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman, former member of the City Council (where he served for four years) and currently serves as an elected member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Supreme Court of the United States. Weinroth served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services Inc, an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. After serving on multiple community boards and committees, Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2014. During his tenure, he served as CRA Vice-chair and Deputy Mayor and was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport Authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. As a newly elected County Commissioner, Weinroth has been appointed Vice-Chair of the Solid Waste Authority, a board member of the PBC Transportation Planning Agency, and alternate representative on the Treasure Coast Planning Agency and several other county and regional boards. Robert, Pamela and their two dogs, Sierra and Siggy, are proud to call Boca Raton home.

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