Building Hope for Homeless Men: Coalition Unveils New Men’s Service Center
With a ribbon cutting and a flourish of confetti, the Coalition’s new Men’s Service Center (MSC) was officially unveiled to the Orlando community.
Held on the lawn in front of the new, 32,000 sq. ft, two-story facility on Jan. 28, the ceremony’s speakers – Board Chair Elena Norman, President/CEO Brent Trotter, corporate investor Larisa Perry of Wells Fargo Bank, MSC investor Wren Werrenrath and former MSC resident Sidney Hemmings – shared their excitement for the strides the MSC has already made in helping homeless men.
The Grand Opening of the new facility was attended by a crowd of nearly 200, including a number of community leaders. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and Orlando city commissioners Robert Stuart, Regina Hill and Samuel Ings were in attendance, as well as Orange County commissioner Victoria Siplin, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demmings, and Cindy Brown, representing Congressman Daniel Webster.
Following an invocation by Good Samaritan Outreach founder David Torres, Coalition board chair Elena Norman expressed her gratitude for the community’s support.
“The MSC would not be here without you,” she said.
President/CEO Brent Trotter conveyed his elation for a new facility that allows the Coalition to give homeless men the same opportunities it has been giving homeless women and families with children for the past 28 years.
“What you see behind me was just a dream, some would say a fantasy,” he said.
Prior to the MSC soft opening on June 25 of last year, the men who came to the Coalition ate dinner and stayed for a night before returning to the streets.
“The men we serve are the most underserved of the homeless population, and most often misunderstood,” Trotter said. “They came to us homeless and they left us homeless.”
Much like the Coalition’s programs for homeless women and families with children, the new MSC offers case-managed programs to help 250 men pave their way to independence. Since last June, 81 men have moved in permanent housing and 51 have moved into transitional housing in the community.
A wide array of services is available to MSC residents, including educational opportunities, job skills training, legal clinics, and health care referrals. The facility boasts dormitory-style accommodations, with bunk beds and lockers for personal items, and is able to accommodate elderly and disabled residents. Up to 50 homeless veterans are offered specialized services, and the First Steps abuse recovery program now can accommodate 50 men, up from 36 in the former Men’s Pavilion.
In addition to the Coalition’s long-time on-site partners such as Goodwill Industries, Orange County Public Schools LifeStrides adult education program, and Aspire Health Partners, numerous other organizations come regularly to offer their assistance.
Mayor Jacobs lauded the new facility that empowers men to help themselves as a “crucial part of the solution” in addressing homelessness.
“There is a community that is surrounding them with support. They find the hope they need. They find the hope that inspires,” she said.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the Men’s Service Center gives the community an avenue to help homeless men in a way it has never been able to do prior to its opening. He described it as part of the solution that includes other strategic efforts and partners in the effort to address homelessness.
The Orlando mayor also expressed his desire for his city to join others in the nation that have made strides in decreasing the homeless population.
“If Houston can do it, if Phoenix can do it, if New Orleans can do, Orlando and Orange County can do it,” said Dyer.
Sidney Hemmings, a former client of the MSC who recently moved into his own apartment, was the last to address the crowd. He shared his experiences of working and moving from city to city before becoming homeless. The Coalition, he said, provided him with the resources he needed, as well as the opportunity to save his money, to get back on his feet.
“I thank the Coalition and the Men’s Service Center for helping me to success,” he said. “If I can do it, you can do it too.”
For the full album that commemorates the Grand Opening, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/cfl_homeless/sets/72157650125863089/.