Allegany Franciscan Ministries (AFM) grew out of the hospital and health ministries of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany in Florida. Formed in 1998, Allegany Franciscan Ministries’ work continues to be rooted in the tradition and vision of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. They provide grants and work with community partners in three regions of Florida formerly served by the Sisters’ hospitals: Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie Counties, and the Tampa Bay area of Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.
Since awarding its first grant in 1998, AFM has invested more than $100 million to help those who are vulnerable and disenfranchised. In 2018, as part of its Major Grant program, AFM awarded a two-year grant of $147,000 to The Lord’s Place (TLP) for a new project called Serving the Chronically Homeless-Stabilizing the Health of the most Vulnerable. TLP is a nonprofit in West Palm Beach dedicated to breaking the cycle of homelessness by providing innovative, compassionate and effective services to men, women and children in Palm Beach County.
There is a strong relationship between health and homelessness: poor health is a major cause of homelessness, and homelessness creates and exacerbates health problems. For every age group, those who are homeless are three times more likely to die than the general population. The average life expectancy for people who experience homelessness is between 40 and 50 years old – more than 30 years younger than the general population (NHCHC 2011).
Understanding the significant health risks of those suffering from chronic homelessness, TLP created this intensive program to provide comprehensive services with a Social Determinant of Health lens, to scale health access and services for the chronically homeless population they serve.
This grant helped TLP expand their housing and street outreach partnership with the City of West Palm Beach, and housed clients through a collaboration with Palm Beach County’s FUSE (Frequent Users Systems Engagement) Initiative which is dedicated to people who cycle in and out of jail, hospital, and behavioral health systems.
Following is an excerpt from TLP’s final report, demonstrating the impact of the grant on clients, the agency, and the community:
Project’s Impact on Clients:
Throughout this two year project, our agency provided supportive housing and comprehensive wrap- around services to 87 clients, six of whom regrettably passed away while in the program. As this outcome compels us to be ever mindful of the profound health precarity of those suffering from chronic homelessness, it also engenders gratitude for having had the chance to be a part of their journeys and strengthens our motivation to continue this important work.
Overall, the number of clients we served through this project is a significant increase over our projection of 55 clients. This is a testament to the impact of this grant, whose dedicated, multi-year support to our Housing First programs enabled us to scale our services for the chronically homeless population. Indeed, since this grant’s inception, we have taken on a major additional HUD Continuum of Care project for the chronically homelessness, expanded our housing and street outreach partnership with the City of West Palm Beach, and housed clients through a collaboration with Palm Beach County’s FUSE initiative. Many of these projects provided limited funding for the essential supportive services that keep clients housed and the supervisory roles that cause the program to thrive. Anchored by the security of knowing this grant supported those often neglected program components, we had the confidence to expand our efforts to serve this vulnerable population. Because of this, 32 additional unsheltered individuals (a 41 percent greater increase than projected) were welcomed into their new homes and showered with care and concern.
Project’s Impact on Agency:
This project has enabled our agency to refine and solidify the structure of its Housing First programs. With the support of AFM, we were able to create distinct program and property management functions, which has contributed to improved service delivery and greater operational performance in delivering the programs. Clients now understand and are able to differentiate the roles of program support and property management. They understand that their case manager and peer support are first and foremost advocates there to help them rebuild their lives. By eliminating the management of the specific details or their housing (leases, rent payments, etc.), the program has been able to alleviate clients’ apprehension about collaborating with staff, whose motives they may question. This has improved their relationship and led to better outcomes for clients. At the same time, with a separate property management department to perform essential tasks such as securing new housing stock, liaising with landlords, coordinating maintenance requests, and collecting rent, The Lord’s Place has been able to successfully scale the program to address this urgent community need.
Project’s Impact on Community:
This project has raised awareness throughout the community about the plight of those experiencing chronic homelessness and the need for more local permanent supportive housing for them. As a result, many of the most salient funding opportunities have coalesced around Housing First-based permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless and rapid rehousing for other populations. For instance, within the past two years, we have secured major grants to serve the chronically homeless from the US Department of HUD, Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners, and United Way of Palm Beach County. In addition to providing our programs with valuable multi-year funding to boost their long-term sustainability, these funding opportunities reflect the growing consensus among governmental, philanthropic, and community stakeholders that more resources are needed to address this most dangerous and harmful form of homelessness. AFM has been among the most forward-thinking and prescient leaders on this issue. By committing to helping us develop our then-formative model and scale our chronically homeless housing, AFM shined its light on the importance of caring for the most marginalized and disadvantaged among us. In the months and years that followed, others took notice and followed. As a result, housing is now one of the most commonly cited issues in Palm Beach County, rising to the forefront at legislative roundtables, civic engagement platforms such as Community Foundation’s On the Table initiative, and other community forums. Recently, this has propelled our agency into a number of new partnerships around supportive housing, including a major three-year contract with the Quantum Foundation, who similarly confirmed the relationship between health and housing that AFM recognized so early with this grant.
As we look to the future, we are poised to continue to play a lead role in housing and advocating for the chronically homeless population. We have the model and resources to fulfill this role due to the support of Allegany Franciscan Ministries. On behalf of our clients, agency and community, thank you for all that you have done to help us transform the lives of the 87 individuals we have served and all those yet to come.