John Cooke walks through the woods looking for a homeless camp while volunteering with the Highlands County Coalition for the Homeless' annual survey of the homeless population Jan. 27 FILE PHOTO/STAFF
SEBRING — An organization which aids the homeless and those nearing homelessness recently faced the challenge of finding a new home. The Highlands County Coalition for the Homeless was notified in June that it would have to vacate its space in a building at the Avon Park Housing Authority. Since then, the coalition has found a new office in downtown Sebring at 134 N. Ridgewood Drive, Suite 12. In the wake of the move, officials from both organizations say they plan to continue working together on issues relating to homelessness.
Larry Shoeman, executive director of the housing authority, said this wasn’t the first time the coalition moved its offices from the housing authority location. In this particular instance, he said, the housing authority needed the space because of plans for a new employee and a new program. “We did not anticipate the relationship (as far as the location of the coalition offices) to be long-standing,” he said. Glenn Phillips, chairman of the coalition’s board of directors, said the coalition never expected to be there on a permanent basis. There are advantages to moving the offices to Sebring, he said. “There was a feeling that it would benefit us to be more centrally located,” he said. Previous to receiving the notice, he said, the coalition had considered moving. It was thought it might be advantageous for the coalition to have a location separate from the authority, as they are not the same entity, he added. By being housed at the authority, some “might think we’re an extension of the housing authority when we’re not,” he added. Phillips said the coalition will continue to work with the housing authority in some instances. And the move will not change the coalition’s goal of eliminating homelessness. The coalition has money to help people with rent so they don’t become homeless, he said. “Unfortunately many people at this point in time are two paychecks away from being homeless.” The coalition also has worked on programs to help people get services for substance abuse problems, which could cause them to become homeless. Information about programs is available by calling (863) 314-8901. Office visits are by appointment only. Phillips said the coalition also is expected to provide services in several surrounding rural counties, including DeSoto, Okeechobee, Glades and Hendry. Developing more services for those counties will be a goal, he said. The coalition has been without a permanent director for several months since former director Lisa Lucas moved. Natalie Douglas Simons is the interim executive director. Phillips said he expects the board to resolve that soon. firstname.lastname@example.org (863) 386-5834