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Rotary Happenings: Homeless problem discussed at Rotary meeting

By Staff | Apr 15, 2015

Mental health, drug addiction, joblessness, and desperation lead many to a life on the street all across our nation and Lee County, Florida is no exception.

Last year’s annual Lee County Homeless Coalition (LCHC) census report stated that Lee County has estimated 638 homeless in the area but many homeless are actually left off the radar.

Recently the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary invited Janet Bartos, Executive Director and Ann Arnall, Director of Human Service of the Lee County Homeless Coalition to speak to us about this exceptional non-profit organization helping the homeless in our area.

Florida has the third largest homeless population in the nation.

Janet told us that the LCHC’s mission is “To advocate, educate, and promote awareness of issues and obstacles facing homeless individuals in Lee County through community collaboration, planning and implementing solutions”.

First off, the LCHC strives to bring community awareness and education to the general public of the need to service the homeless in the area, mostly hidden out of normal sight, and shines a light on how this population can be served.

Lee County’s homeless statistical information is collected from various sources including the police department, soup kitchen, hospitals, veterans organizations and other agencies directly involved with this population and helps to put together a rather detailed statistical snapshot of the homeless within our community.

This report covers a myriad of statistics but here are just a few for 2015: Gender-427 Male, 211 Female; Race- 448 White, 156 Black/African American, 7 American Indian/Alaska. Native, 27 Other; 402 Homeless for more than a year.

Disabling Conditions-Physical, Developmental, Mental Health (highest percentage), Drug or Alcohol Addiction, HIV/AIDS. WhyEmployment/financial, housing issues, medical/disability, forced to relocate, family problems, natural/other disasters, recent immigration.

Funding for Lee County Homeless Coalition, Inc. comes from a number of sources: government and business grants, fundraising activities, and individual giving.

Your help is always needed and research and information on LCHC can be found at www.leehomeless.org.

Ann Arnall told us that in early 2000-Sanibelian, Sanibel-Captiva Rotarian, and Lee County Commissioner, Bob Janes brought to light the fact that many low-level, nonviolent crimes were committed because of mental illness or substance use and after being arrested and incarcerated for a short period of time, were then sent back out to the streets to repeat their offenses again and again.

This population needed intervention. In 2008 the founding of the Bob Janes Triage Center and Low Demand Shelter came to fruition with help from Lee County Southwest Florida, The Salvation Army, Lee Memorial Health System, Veteran’s Administration, United Way, Florida Department of Children & Families, and SalusCare.

The target populations to be served; individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis who are at risk of being charged with a minor ordinance or non-violent offense.

Now this is really important – Services offered – Psycho-social and nursing assessments; referrals to treatment programs, life skills training, medication assistance, assistance in obtaining identification, birth certificates, and social security card, linkage to permanent housing, support groups, assistance with applications for Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps, and Social Security Disability, and linkage to Veterans Services.

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets every Friday morning at 7:00am for breakfast at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club, Sanibel. Guest are always welcomed.