Across the nation – The Space Coast being no exception – rent prices have increased, income levels failing to rise along with those costs. Because of this, more and more people are being priced out of their homes, displacing people of all ages and income levels, and putting them on the streets. And many are living paycheck to paycheck, putting them at-risk for homelessness. With this in mind, being independent can feel almost impossible. Enter, the South Brevard Sharing Center.
South Brevard Sharing Center (SBSC) has been helping the community since 1971. The organization is dedicated to helping those who are homeless, or who at risk of being homeless, regain their independence and find stability. The organization provides a multitude of services to help accomplish this mission. I met with Keri Donald, president of SBSC; Tara Pariso, executive director of SBSC; and Autumn Batson, director of marketing and development for SBSC, to talk more about the center and its services.
The center is very comprehensive, each of its rooms fulfilling a different need. When first entering the SBSC, those needing to use one of the center’s services will be directed to a waiting room, where they will sit and wait to meet with an intake specialist. Intake specialists help with, not only providing food and hygiene products to those who need it, but also with providing clothing and household vouchers, diversion services, SOAR benefits, Medicaid … anything that can help a person find that stability they are needing, and find access to programs they may not have even realized they were qualified for. And, if SBSC does not have a specialist onsite who can help, there are case managers present who will be able to refer clients to someone who can.
The center also contains a food pantry, a storage room for personal care products and a thrift store filled with clothing, books, furniture and toys. But, as we walked through the center, I found myself really wanting to know how these services truly helped people find stability. How were they any different than any other large donation drop-off?
Well, as previously mentioned, the case management is huge in helping connect people with the resources they need. Food stamps, Medicaid, veteran’s benefits, etc. all go a long way in taking a financial burden off an individual’s back when trying to get back to work and afford a rent. And, by providing personal care products and giving clothing vouchers, you’re helping someone who may be in the interviewing process for a new job, trying to secure the salary they need to afford a stable home.
And, speaking of stable housing, SBSC furnishes the homes of those who are exiting homelessness. “We see over and over again, the benefits of … when you move someone in from outdoors, and they have nothing, they’re changing their location but they’re not really changing their location,” said Donald. “[When you have furniture] the feeling of permanence is completely different, so it makes a big difference.” The products donated to the center aren’t just wasting away or being sold to those looking for a vintage look for their home or next vacation; the products donated to SBSC are going directly into the hands of those who are currently living on the streets, or those who are at risk.
After we concluded our tour, we took a few minutes to discuss in further detail the realities of homelessness, not only on the Space Coast, but within the nation at large. The women were quick to point out that, though it is easier to believe that homelessness is a choice, a lot of the homeless population have experienced trauma or suffer from sever medical conditions, making it difficult to find stability, especially as rents continue to increase. There are also larger populations of homeless people who have full-time jobs, but do not have access to affordable housing. And, with the nature of increased rent costs, more and more people are becoming at risk for homelessness.
When asked if they have noticed an increase in the homeless population or those who are at risk, Pariso responded: “The landscape of the rental market has changed so drastically in the last couple of years. Those folks who were in a place that was affordable two to three years ago, you know, rents have gone up, incomes have not. So, their once affordable unit is not necessarily affordable anymore.
“And, there’s been an influx of folks coming in from out of town for jobs with the big engineering firms that are here, and they’re taking up housing that, maybe was on the less expensive side because that’s all there is, so it leaves even less affordable housing,” Pariso continued.
“We’re seeing a lot of seniors who are being displaced for the first time in their lives, because they’ve been on a fixed income,” shared Donald. “They’ve been on social security, which is a fixed amount, and they’ve lived in the same place for years, never had an issue, and then all of a sudden, rents jump up a couple hundred dollars a month, and they can’t afford it anymore.”
Of course, for those who are working full-time but living paycheck to paycheck, a medical emergency, car trouble or layoff could be the thing that strips them of their home. Homelessness isn’t just something people choose, and it is something that can happen to anyone, at any moment.
In a perfect world, organizations like SBSC would not exist, but until that day, South Brevard Sharing Center is lending a helping hand and doing its part to help decrease the homeless population in Brevard.
HOW TO HELP
- SBSC accepts food, personal care, furniture and clothing donations.
- Furniture item too big? Call 321-727-8581 to schedule a pick-up with an SBSC truck driver.
- There is always room for volunteers – you can help with move-ins, volunteer in the food pantry, help in the thrift store or help with special events.
Learn more at the SBSC website: mysbsc.org