Changing the Lives of Kids in Florida

Sam had lost his wife to cancer and was struggling with a work-related injury that left him disabled. Trying to get by on a fixed income is hard enough, but then the rental property he and his sons called home went through foreclosure and new owners evicted Sam’s family. Sam is tough but the thought of homelessness and perhaps separation from his children was too much to bear.

Fortunately he found a solution that would allow his family to stay together in Broward County, in a home they could afford with access to services to help them move forward. The solution is HEART supportive housing and it is working for Sam, his kids and over 50 other families.

HEART is the (Housing, Empowerment, Achievement, Recovery, Triumph) Alliance for Sustainable Families. The lead partner, Kids In Distress (KID Inc.), and the other organizations comprising HEART are committed to strengthening vulnerable families.

This is no small undertaking. There are approximately 148 homeless families with 303 homeless children in Broward County. Unfortunately, because they lack housing and access to the critical services they need, these families could face the risk of children being removed from their parents and placed into foster care.

Few events are more traumatic for children than being separated from their families because homelessness, poverty or marginalized housing jeopardizes their wellbeing. Research shows that such children are at a higher risk for impaired neurodevelopment and emotional health, abuse, poverty, future homelessness, criminal justice involvement, and suicide.

HEART is a robust array of integrated services and affordable housing that reduces homelessness, child removals and foster care placements while increasing healthy parenting, employment, financial management skills and housing stability.

HEART also is one of five national demonstration sites funded by the US Children’s Bureau, in partnership with CSH, to help vulnerable families realize affordable housing and self-sufficiency.

In October, a regional forum was held to highlight not only the progress of HEART families but how supportive housing builds healthier communities and improves the quality of life for all of us.

The most important takeaway from the forum is that when families have a safe, permanent place to call home they can focus on the things parents care about: the safety, well-being and education of their children.

Making sure there is enough affordable housing for vulnerable families requires great commitment and investment, but it costs us far more to leave people in homelessness than it does to ensure them access to a home.

HEART is looking to the future and the expansion of supportive housing for vulnerable families. CSH is doing the same and has launched the One Roof campaign to leverage supportive housing to help change the trajectory of families at the intersection of homelessness and child welfare involvement. KID, Inc. is a proud and enthusiastic supporter of One Roof.

The choice is clear: We can look the other way and hope struggling families facing complex problems do not end up homeless and separated or we can take action and use an approach that shows great promise for keeping them together, strengthened by stability, under one roof.

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