It was a dark windy night on Chicago’s north side. The homeless were lined up outside the church patiently waiting for the door to open, an escape from the bitter cold in the January winter of 1984. That night I was on duty in the shelter: food, a cot, a shower. A mother, a child, a father. Homeless.
Florida’s churches do not have basements for shelter use. Our homeless sleep in cars and tents in the woods, or they couch surf.
Every Florida county faces the homeless issue.
Rozanne Brown, Founder of Carebag Inc, an outreach to the homeless on Florida’s Treasure Coast, states that Indian River State College currently has 120 homeless students, many who sleep on a friend’s sofa. She and her support team just met with students on the college campus in March, handing out bags of necessities.
Hurricane Irma created an increase in homelessness on the Treasure Coast. Rozanne Brown states that in 2018, more than 1500 children in the St. Lucie County School district were registered as homeless.
Homeless children are living in precarious situations, affecting them both physically and mentally. Their parents have divorced, been battered, are trying to live on low incomes, are without employment or have substance abuse problems. These kids have been traumatized. Because of living in homeless situations, they are “sick at twice the rate of other children”—ear infections, diarrhea, asthma. They are hungry. More than half “develop emotional problems serious enough to require professional care, but less than one-third receive any treatment.” These emotional problems include anxiety, depression, withdrawal, behavioral problems and learning disabilities. “By the time homeless children are eight years old, one in three has a major mental disorder.” (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
In 2015, Florida school districts counted 71,446 children and teens who were either homeless or couch surfers. (DCF)
Rozanne Brown knows of a mother living homeless with her two-month-old baby and 15-year-old son in a car. She cannot come into a women’s shelter because her son will be separated from her.
There are many rules regarding shelters and the age of children allowed to remain with a parent.
“Chronic homelessness, in particular, results in especially high community costs.” People who are homeless need emergency care at hospitals they cannot pay for. They need financial help for food, medicine, everyday supplies that community organizations, such as Carebag, support. Amazingly, these people are not loafers, they do work, but their incomes are low.
A University of Florida study shows that there is a critical shortage of affordable low-income housing. Most people in Florida who are homeless because of extremely low incomes.
The solution is “a combination of limited rental assistance funding with limited services provision after moving in.” This plan is known as rapid-rehousing. (DCF)
For children, rapid-rehousing plan is a necessity. It’s also a less expensive way to help people who are homeless.
It is estimated that communities spend about $300 million each year to help the homeless. (DCF) http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/homelessness/docs/2011CouncilReport.pdfh
Until more communities step up and help provide rapid-rehousing, organizations like Carebag fill the gaps.
Rozanne Brown has never been homeless; a former medical researcher, she has faced her own life-adversities. Her young daughter, her only child, died of spinal meningitis at age seven. She has also seen her parents into heaven.
Rozanne is known as “Roxy” in the woods. She is the face of Carebag. To those who are homeless, Rozanne Brown is the face of compassion, the person trusted by the homeless. She has a special Google phone number they can dial when help is needed.
Rozanne began Carebag out of her car with 120 hamburgers every other day from McDonald’s. Patron after patron either matched or helped her. Three and a half years later, Carebag Inc. has a board of directors and is a registered charity. Working beside Rozanne are 200 local volunteers.
In 2017 Carebag served 1700 hours handing out 98,700 personal items and clothing, and 67,000 bags of food.
Currently, Rozanne Brown is looking for a donation of a storage unit or building to hold the many donated items she has. She also is raising funds for a mobile shower unit, which together with a truck, trailer and everything associated with it will cost $110,000, for one year’s budget.
Not many people would do what Rozanne has done--left her career, gone into the woods, made a difference. But she has taken the words of her father, “You can do nothing but give and help, knowing you’ll expect nothing back,” and put actions to them.
The world is watching. Words matter. But actions are seen.
This is the question: “Will you too help children who are homeless?”
Contact Carebag and Rozanne “Roxy” Brown with questions or help at: email@example.com, visit her online at www.carebag.org or call 772.222.7399.
Contact Kelly Jadon at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(C) 2018 Kelly Jadon