On March 1, 1999 I observed my first month "anniversary" of moving into the Homeless Assistance Center from the squalor of Tent City. Based on my one month at the Center, and my previous tour of the facility on January 23, here is a narrative of what one can expect to find when they arrive at the center, from a resident's point of view.
The Homeless Assistance Center is located at 920 NW 7th Avenue, in Fort Lauderdale. When you first arrive at the gate, you will walk through a metal detector, and then sign in the resident log at the gate. (you will have already signed out before leaving the campus, with the time and destination) At the security personnel's discretion, they may also ask you to empty your pockets and manually frisk you or run a Garrett hand scanner over you to make sure you are not carrying any concealed weapons.
Once you get through the security checkpoint you may proceed straight ahead to the lobby, where the receptionists will phone ahead to your case worker on the 2nd floor before you are allowed entry on the elevator to see them, or you may use the telephone in the lobby for local calls between 9AM and 6PM, or if you have medical needs, proceed straight ahead to the medical clinic where staff members from Broward General Medical Center will dispense medicine or diagnose your symptoms. You will have already been through a physical and tuberculosis test at this facility as part of the intake process.
If you are there to see a case worker, after you get off the elevator,you will either wait in a reception area until your name is called or walk directly to your case worker's office down the hallway straight in front of you off of the elevator. It is here where you can get your bus passes for job searches or to discuss your needs and progress in becoming a part of functional society again.
If you have no need to go to the lobby, you can proceed directly to the courtyard, where you will first walk past the dining area which is only open during breakfast 5-6:30AM, lunch 11:30AM-1PM, or dinner at 5-6:30PM. No resident is allowed in the dining area at any other time, unless there are AA/NA or other meetings being held there.
In the center of the courtyard, which reminds one of a college campus, there is a gazebo with picnic tables set up for recreation and congregation, and is also one of only two designated smoking areas on the campus, the other being the large hallway area directly below the dormitories toward the back of the campus.
To the left of the hallway is one of the two laundry rooms where residents can do their laundry free of charge, and there are soda and snack machines near the smoking area where items only cost 50 cents each.
Along the right side of the campus is the second laundry room, and a series of classrooms where GED and ABE classes are conducted on Tuesday and Thursday nights. It is also in the farthest classroom, nearest to the gate, where the residents' belongings are stored, and cannot be removed until the resident leaves the Center in the 60-90 day period, unless they are discharged for other reasons.
Another set of vending machines can also be found by the dining area next to the classrooms.
The dormitories can be found directly above the smoking area, and can only be reached by going up 2 flights of stairs to the corresponding area in which you belong. No male resident can be in or near the women's dorms,including the adjoining walkways, and vice versa. Likewise, although as of March 1, there are no families at the Center, you are not allowed in this area either.
For the men,there is capacity for 2 rooms of 50, although at the present time there is only about 30 people in my dorm, the 500 dorm, and about 20 in the 600 dorm. In addition, along both sides of the room the beds are stacked like bunk beds for a total maximum capacity of 68, and there are gym lockers for each resident.
For the women,there is capacity for 3 rooms of 20, although at the present time there is less than 15 women on campus, designated the 400 dorm.
For families,there are 2 rooms of 20, but as mentioned previously, these facilities are currently not being used.
Inside the men's dorm area, there is a shower area with 12 showerheads, 6 sinks, 3 urinals, and 3 stools. The 600 dorm is similarly configured, as I would imagine the women's dorm would be, but of course, no urinals.
There is a lounge area with couches and chairs that can seat about 15 people, and have Zenith 25" color TVs with remotes monitored by the resident coordinator who can observe through a glass window in the adjoining office. The 600 dorm also has a VCR,and some of the residents rent tapes from Blockbuster or the Broward County Library, although this privilege should probably be reinstated to the 500 dorm as well in the near future.
I find that all of these facilities are of great use and a comfort to people who are homeless and wish to make their lives better. For more information on the facility, return to the Home Page link below, or contact Ezra Krieg or Dave Freedman at (954) 779-3990.
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