Operation Lift Hope is Changing the Homeless Landscape

Operation Lift HopeThere is a movement afoot, barely noticed by the community at large, that has been slowly growing momentum over the last few years. This movement represents a monumental change in the entire landscape of services for those who experience homelessness. It is an entire paradigm shift in how we, collectively, are working to end homelessness. Industry experts call this shift a Housing First model, where the primary goal is to quickly identify, assess, and move people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing and then provide services as needed. It is a two-step model of crisis response and rapid re-housing.

Locally, as this paradigm shift has been occurring and providers and funders have begun transforming the system of care to the new model, the business community began looking for leadership to understand the changes and find their strategic role in this new model. Operation Lift Hope is the result of local business leaders working with the public and social sectors to not only partner in the community’s efforts but to spearhead the launching of a robust continuum of care system that is truly Housing First.


A cohesive community plan

Operation Lift Hope is chaired by Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, County Commissioner Chip LaMarca and Andy Mitchell, president of Fairwinds Group.

Comprised of thirteen teams working on different areas of focus, Operation Lift Hope has been meeting over the last year to develop a cohesive community plan that will be launched publically at an upcoming event at the Broward Convention Center on September 25. The first step was to have the Synergistic Team, comprised of all homeless providers in the area, government, law enforcement agencies and business representatives, begin working on the strategic plan.

To accomplish this, the Synergistic Team held workshops consisting of three half-day sessions, one each in October, November and December of 2014. The specific goal of the Synergistic Team workshops was: Creating a shared vision for the next steps in the City of Fort Lauderdale’s journey to provide services and a better quality of life to the homeless, with a focus on veterans and families, with the specific intent to re-engage the business, civic and faith communities.

The process undertaken by this group was to define the critical components to strengthening the Broward Continuum of Care efforts surrounding the homeless in the downtown Fort Lauderdale corridor (I-95 east to the Beach; 17th Street Causeway north to Commercial Blvd) with special emphasis on veterans and families. To accomplish the bold goals set forth by this group, The Operation Lift Hope Fund has been established in partnership with the National Christian Foundation of South Florida (NCF) to provide a platform for investment into the strategies developed by the Synergistic Team. Initial investment into this fund will come from the proceeds of an Operation Lift Hope event scheduled for Fall 2015. The funds will be allocated in a grant making process managed and overseen by a committee in partnership with NCF, and will be based upon the following report.


Strategic solutions

Business leaders involved with Operation Lift HOPE requested the team produce an understandable guide to the homeless issue including recommendations for strategic advancement towards a solution. Building upon the A Way Home plan and the recent Consultant Report issued to Broward County by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the team identified the primary needs that could be met in order to bring the most impact in addressing homelessness. The focus was on Crisis Response Systems and Affordable, Permanent and Rapid re-Housing.

Building on this two-step model, the Synergistic Team identified two major concerns that were consistent among all participants: addressing housing capacity issues that leave families and individuals seeking shelter on the streets and the need for a robust rapid re-housing system in our community.

It was also clear that the business community and surrounding neighborhoods needed an understandable methodology that was consistent with the A Way Home report. A thorough discussion resulted in the following simplification of the complex homeless system:  Engage- Empower-Educate-Employ.

Engage –  Quickly and efficiently serve the homeless in their time of need

Empower – Stabilize housing and provide supportive services

Educate – Develop skills necessary for living and succeeding

Employ – Improve income and career advancement

Following the two step model, the final recommendations in the formal report to be shared soon focus on the Engage – Crisis Response Systems and Empower – Rapid re-Housing. The final recommendations will all work towards bringing the business, governmental and social sectors together to strengthen these two critical components within the new Housing First model of service.


A coordinated response

All in our community are working together to make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring. Together, we are moving from a collection of programs that operate independently to a coordinated crisis response system — a system that prevents homelessness, when possible, provides safe emergency housing for brief periods of time and helps people exit homelessness quickly to permanent housing.

Through Operation Lift Hope we now have a strong push from the business community to help fund this shift and focus on ending homelessness in our community. You, your church and business will be called upon to be a part of this growing movement. As more information is made public, be praying about how you can join us in ending homelessness.


Robin Martin is executive director of HOPE South Florida, a non-profit organization serving homeless and hurting individuals and families through partnerships with churches and community services. He can be reached at [email protected].

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