Thursday, December 29, 2005

Homeless in Paradise


When my brother Marty and his wife came down here for a couple of days last week, he brought with him a bag of clothes that he had just recently removed from his wardrobe in order to make room in his closets. He wanted me to find somewhere to donate them where they would do some good.

I first thought about the Salvation Army store, but Janet reminded me that whatever is donated there is merely sold, with the proceeds going to the work of the Sallies. Then I thought about the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League. I knew that they are somehow affiliated with the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition , and I knew that they have a location on Patterson Avenue.

Marty and I are about the same size. He had some nice cargo shorts in the bag, and I need some, but unfortunately they didn't fit me (either). I did snag some still-nice Henley-collar shirts, and one particularly nice floral shirt.

I brought the rest of the collection -- shorts, socks, and a lot of nice shirts -- to the Patterson Street location, where I met Chris out in front having a cigarette. He identified himself as being in charge of the place, a client himself in 1997 and now managing a home for up to 20 homeless men trying to make their way back into productive society, willing to observe the restrictions placed on them in return for being able to live there, and willing to avail themselves of the counseling and training services that are available to them. The FKOC operates other group residences in Key West and on Stock Island, and provide services to men and women, including women with children.

There's an interlocking mesh of non-profit organizations here in Key West providing a wide range of social and cultural programs, and they are all hurting financially and seeking ways to raise private funding to replace what has been lost on the government side to disaster recovery programs, and to changes in political philosophies.

What I know about the FKOC and its programs, I like. It's a hand-up, not a handout. For those homeless who aren't willing or able to follow the residence rules, there is the homeless shelter on Stock Island. I visited there when it was being set early this year. The creature comforts are less, and it's a difficult place to live while working, or trying to find work.

Anyhow, Chris told me that the Patterson St. house would be very happy to have the clothes, and that they would be distributed fairly. Whatever wasn't needed at Patterson St. would then be sent to the homeless shelter for use there.

So, thanks Marty. And thanks for the visit. We do get lonely sometimes.

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