New Center for Women and Children in Winter Haven

New Center for Women and Children in Winter Haven

Lakeland, Fl – May 28th, 2024 – Talbot House Ministries, the most comprehensive homeless services provider in Polk County, is thrilled to announce the purchase of the former Salvation Army facility in Winter Haven, Florida. This exciting development will allow Talbot House to expand its services and create a dedicated center for women and children experiencing homelessness.

“The opening of this new center for women and children represents a significant milestone in the efforts to reduce family homelessness and support the wellbeing of children experiencing housing instability. It will be Talbot House Ministries first program dedicated to serve homeless families through emergency shelter. We are deeply committed to serving the most vulnerable in our community, and this new center will allow us to provide critical support to women and children facing homelessness,” said Maria Cruz, Executive Director of Talbot House.

In the first phase, we are not envisioning taking males residents. If we come across an intact family, we will be sending any male over the age of 18 to Lakeland headquarters for a residential bed.

A Growing Need: Families with Children Lack Shelter Options

The big picture: About 653,100 people experienced homelessness in the U.S. last year, Axios’ April Rubin reports.

  • Homelessness increased by about 12% nationwide between 2022 and 2023, per HUD’s report.

Threat level: The 2023 figure “is the highest number of people reported as experiencing homelessness on a single night since reporting began in 2007,” per HUD.

By the numbers: In the 2023 count, Florida reported 15,482 unsheltered people or 6% of the national total of people living in places not meant for human habitation.

  • The state also had some of the nation’s largest increases of families with children and veterans experiencing homelessness between 2022-2023.
  • At least 60% of Floridians experiencing chronic homelessness didn’t have shelter on the January 2023 night, per the report.

The need for this center is undeniable. In Polk County, with an estimated 600+ homeless people, a significant portion require specialized support. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, nearly 30% of the homeless population nationwide are families with children. Tragically, there is currently a lack of low barrier shelter options specifically designed for families with children under 18 in Polk County. This leaves women and children particularly vulnerable.

Talbot House recognizes the unique needs of women and children experiencing homelessness. This new center will provide a safe and supportive environment where they can access the resources they need to rebuild their lives.

Opening Planned for Early 2025

Talbot House anticipates opening the new center in early 2025. The community’s support will be essential in making this critical resource a reality.

Comprehensive Services for Women and Children

The new center will provide emergency shelter, 24/7, for single women and single mothers with children under 18. In the first phase, we do not envision taking male residents. If we come across an intact family, we will be sending any male over the age of 18 to Lakeland headquarters for a residential bed. Case Managers will work collaboratively to consolidate/unify the housing plan as a family.

 The facility will offer:

  • Low-barrier shelter: This approach minimizes restrictions on entry, allowing those most in need to access services.
  • Family-friendly accommodations:
    • 10 rooms with 4 beds each for families
    • 5 rooms with 6 beds each for families
    • 12 beds in a single women’s dorm area
  • Case management: Talbot House will provide case managers to help families and individuals develop a housing plan to overcome barriers that contributed to their homelessness episode and achieve self-sufficiency.
  • Support services: Residents will have access to a range of programs and services designed to help them achieve long-term stability, including:
    • Education and employment assistance
    • Connection to childcare services/support
    • Day services
    • Rapid re-housing referrals
    • Diversion/prevention programs
    • Addiction recovery support
    • Mental health counseling
    • Community food pantry
    • Free medical services through Talbot House Good Samaritan Clinic
    • Arts and mentorship programs
    • Spiritual counseling and services

Talbot House’s Commitment to Safety

The safety of our children is a top priority for Talbot House Ministries. A comprehensive sex offender background check will be required for all residents due to the presence of children on-site.

Sharing Blessings, Fighting Hardship: How Eid and Passover Inspire Us to Help the Homeless

Sharing Blessings, Fighting Hardship: How Eid and Passover Inspire Us to Help the Homeless

HOW EID AND PASSOVER INSPIRE US TO HELP THE HOMELESS

Spring brings a vibrant tapestry of religious holidays, including Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan for Muslims, and Passover, celebrating freedom for Jews. While seemingly different traditions, both Eid and Passover share a core message: compassion for the less fortunate. This message extends beyond celebratory meals and family gatherings, urging us to open our hearts and hands to those experiencing homelessness.

Helping Those in Need During Eid

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Eid, also known as the “Festival of Breaking Fast,” culminates a month of fasting, prayer, and self-reflection. Zakat, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, emphasizes charity as a

 fundamental duty. Muslims are encouraged to donate a portion of their wealth to those in need. During Eid, this takes the form of Zakat al-Fitr, a mandatory charitable donation given before the Eid prayers. This tradition ensures that everyone has the means to celebrate, minimizing economic disparities within the community.

Passover: A Celebration of Freedom and Social Justice

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Similarly, Passover commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. A central theme is the concept of “Tzedek,” which translates to justice and righteousness. The story of Passover reminds us of the vulnerability of being displaced and emphasizes the importance of helping those seeking refuge, including the homeless.

Shared Meals and a Call to Action

Both Eid and Passover center around shared meals. The Eid feast is a joyous occasion of community and gratitude. Muslims often prepare extra food to share with neighbors and those less fortunate. Passover features the Seder meal, a rich symbolism-laden dinner where a central element is the empty chair, representing those who are still not free. This symbolic reminder underscores the importance of fighting for social justice and helping those who haven’t yet found their freedom – including those struggling with homelessness.

 

Ways to Help the Homeless During Eid and Passover

Here are some specific actions you can take to translate these holiday messages into action to help the homeless during Eid and Passover:

  • Organize Food Drives: Collect and donate excess food prepared for Eid or Passover meals. Consider preparing culturally specific dishes or offering non-perishable items.
  • Volunteer Your Time: Shelters and soup kitchens often see increased demand during holidays. Volunteer your time to help prepare and serve meals, distribute clothing, or simply offer companionship.
  • Organize Clothing and Hygiene Drives: Coordinate a collection drive within your community to donate hygiene products and new or gently used clothing to shelters or outreach programs.
  • Advocate for Change: Raise awareness about homelessness in your community. Support policies that promote affordable housing, access to mental health services, and job training programs.
  • Donate Skills: Many homeless individuals lack access to basic services. Consider donating your professional skills – hairstyling, legal aid, tax preparation – to provide much-needed assistance.

Celebrating Compassion This Holiday Season

By incorporating these actions into your Eid and Passover celebrations, the holidays become more than just joyous occasions. They become opportunities to embody the core values of both traditions: compassion, charity, and a commitment to social justice.

Remember, even small acts of kindness can make a big difference. Let the spirit of Eid and Passover inspire you to reach out and offer a helping hand to those in need. Together, we can create a more just and equitable world, ensuring everyone has a place to call home.

 

Unsung Heroes: Celebrating the Everyday Champions of Black History

Unsung Heroes: Celebrating the Everyday Champions of Black History

Black History Month isn’t just about remembering iconic figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman, it’s also about celebrating the countless unsung heroes who have paved the way for progress and inspired generations. These are the ordinary people who made extraordinary contributions in their communities, families, and workplaces.

Think of the teacher who went above and beyond to mentor a struggling student, instilling in them the confidence to dream big. Imagine the doctor who tirelessly served underserved communities, providing healthcare access to those who needed it most. Remember the entrepreneur who dared to break barriers and build a successful business, paving the way for others to follow.

These everyday heroes may not be written about in history books, but their impact is undeniable. They are the embodiment of the resilience, strength, and creativity that define Black history.

Here are some ways we can celebrate these unsung heroes:

  • Share their stories. Get in touch with local organizations, community leaders, and families to hear about the everyday heroes they know. Share their stories on your social media platforms, website, or newsletter.
  • Highlight their impact. Focus on the positive change these heroes have made in their communities. Did they create programs that helped others? Did they inspire the next generation? Did they overcome obstacles to achieve their dreams?
  • Offer a platform for their voices. Give them a space to share their experiences and perspectives. This could be through interviews, blog posts, or even video testimonials.
  • Empower others to act. Let their stories be a call to action. Encourage your audience to find their own ways to make a positive impact in their communities.

Remember, every act of kindness, every voice raised in support, and every effort to overcome adversity adds to the rich tapestry of Black history. Let’s use this Black History Month to celebrate not just the famous, but also the countless heroes who have made a difference, big or small, in the lives of others.

Beyond February: Addressing Disproportionate Poverty in Black Communities

Beyond February: Addressing Disproportionate Poverty in Black Communities

Black History Month is about celebrating the achievements and resilience of Black Americans throughout history. Yet, this celebration cannot be complete without acknowledging the ongoing challenges the Black community faces, particularly the enduring issue of disproportionate poverty.

The statistics paint a stark picture: in 2020, the poverty rate for Black Americans stood at 19.5%, compared to 9.5% for white Americans. This translates to millions of Black individuals and families struggling to afford basic necessities like food, housing, and healthcare.

But these numbers are more than just statistics; they represent the lived experiences of millions. They tell stories of children going hungry, families facing eviction, and dreams deferred due to lack of opportunity.

Understanding the Roots:

This disparity is not accidental. It’s rooted in a long history of systemic racism and discrimination, including:

  • Slavery and its lasting legacies: The forced labor and economic exploitation of Black people for centuries laid the foundation for the wealth gap we see today.
  • Redlining and discriminatory housing policies: These practices denied Black families access to mortgages and homeownership, hindering wealth accumulation and generational transfer.
  • Mass incarceration and the criminal justice system: The disproportionate targeting and incarceration of Black individuals has devastating consequences, affecting employment prospects, housing stability, and family structures.

Moving Beyond Awareness:

While raising awareness is crucial, Black History Month must also be a call to action. We need to move beyond mere acknowledgment and work towards concrete solutions that dismantle systemic barriers and create pathways to economic empowerment for Black communities.

Here are some key areas to focus on:

  • Addressing racial wealth gap: Policies like reparations, targeted investments in Black businesses, and expanded access to financial literacy programs can help bridge the economic divide.
  • Investing in education: Equitable access to quality education, including early childhood education and college affordability programs, is vital for upward mobility.
  • Criminal justice reform: Addressing racial bias in law enforcement, reducing incarceration rates, and providing reentry support can help break the cycle of poverty and mass incarceration.
  • Supporting Black-owned businesses: Policies that remove barriers to starting and growing businesses, along with increased access to capital and mentorship, can foster economic self-sufficiency.

Beyond February:

Black History Month is a starting point, not an endpoint. The fight for economic justice for Black communities requires sustained effort and commitment throughout the year. We must hold our elected officials accountable, support organizations working on these issues, and engage in our own communities to advocate for change.

Let us honor Black history not just by celebrating achievements, but by actively working to dismantle the systemic barriers that perpetuate poverty and inequality. Let this Black History Month be a catalyst for meaningful action, ensuring a future where economic opportunity and prosperity are equally accessible to all.

Additional Resources:

Remember, even small actions can contribute to a larger movement. Let’s use this Black History Month not just to remember the past, but to shape a more just and equitable future for all.

Spreading Love Beyond Traditional Walls: Show Love to Our Homeless Neighbors This Valentine’s Day

Spreading Love Beyond Traditional Walls: Show Love to Our Homeless Neighbors This Valentine’s Day

Love. It’s a word tossed around freely, especially during Valentine’s Day. Chocolates, roses, fancy dinners – a celebration of love in its many forms. But for many in our community, the reality of Valentine’s Day is far different. This year, let’s extend our love beyond traditional walls and embrace those often forgotten: our homeless neighbors.

Homelessness doesn’t discriminate. It can strike anyone, anytime, leaving individuals and families without the basic necessities of shelter, warmth, and security. While we celebrate love and connection, many facing homelessness experience isolation, loneliness, and a desperate need for support.

This Valentine’s Day, let’s Spread Love Beyond Traditional Walls and show our homeless neighbors they are not invisible. Here’s how:

Give the gift of time: Volunteering your time is a beautiful expression of love. Shelters and organizations like Talbot House often need help with various tasks, from preparing meals to organizing events or simply offering companionship. Donate your time and skills, and witness the transformative power of human connection.

Amplify voices: Share stories of hope and resilience from the homeless community. Challenge stereotypes and raise awareness about the complex issues surrounding homelessness. Use social media, talk to your friends and family, and advocate for policies that support long-term solutions.

Open your heart and your wallet: Donations, big or small, can make a significant difference. Support organizations like Talbot House Ministries, who provide essential services like housing assistance, food programs, and healthcare to those in need. Every dollar donated translates to a hot meal, a warm bed, or a chance to rebuild a life.

Spread kindness, not just on Valentine’s Day: A simple act of kindness can go a long way. Offer a warm smile, engage in conversation, or provide basic necessities like toiletries or warm clothing. Remember, even the smallest gesture can show someone they are seen, valued, and loved.

Remember, love is not confined by walls or circumstances. This Valentine’s Day, let’s extend our love beyond traditional walls and embrace our homeless neighbors. Together, we can make a difference in their lives and build a more compassionate and inclusive community.

Let’s show them that love truly has no boundaries.

Talbot House Ministries Promotes Carley Lintner to Director of Development

Talbot House Ministries Promotes Carley Lintner to Director of Development

Talbot House Ministries Promotes Carley Lintner to Director of Development

Talbot House Ministries, Polk county’s most comprehensive provider of services for homeless men and women is thrilled to announce the promotion of Carley Lintner to Director of Development, effective February 5th, 2024. In this new role, Lintner will leverage her extensive experience and proven success within the organization to lead all fundraising efforts, cultivate donor relationships, and collect the resources needed to fuel Talbot House’s continued growth and impact. 

Lintner’s journey with Talbot House began as the Event Coordinator, where she demonstrably excelled in managing and executing diverse events. She has honed her skills in team coordination, donor relations, and marketing strategies, gaining an intimate understanding of the organization’s mission and the critical role of development in sustaining its vital work.

 

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“Having witnessed firsthand the transformative impact of Talbot House Ministries, I am deeply honored to take on this new challenge,” Lintner expresses. “My passion lies in serving our community, and I’m confident my experience and the collaborative spirit fostered here will equip me to effectively lead our fundraising initiatives.”

Lintner’s dedication and talent haven’t gone unnoticed. Maria Cruz, Executive Director of Talbot House Ministries, commends her promotion, stating, “Carley’s exceptional contributions as Event Coordinator proved that she is a natural fit for this leadership role. Her proven track record, combined with her unwavering commitment to our mission, makes her an invaluable asset to our team.”

Beyond her internal achievements, Lintner’s diverse background further strengthens her qualifications. Her prior roles at Olympia Bakery and Catering and Feeding Tampa Bay solidified her expertise in event management, relationship building, and community engagement. Additionally, her academic background in International Studies and Political Science, coupled with a Certificate in Business Communications, demonstrates her well-rounded skillset and commitment to effective communication and collaboration.

As Director of Development, Lintner is poised to make significant contributions to Talbot House Ministries’ future. Her passion, experience, and leadership qualities position her to cultivate meaningful donor relationships, secure crucial funding, and propel the organization towards even greater impact within the community.

Unmasking the Shadows: A Stark Look at Poverty and Homelessness in Polk County

Unmasking the Shadows: A Stark Look at Poverty and Homelessness in Polk County

Unmasking the Shadows: A Stark Look at Poverty and Homelessness in Polk County

January’s chill reveals not just winter’s bite, but also the persistent realities of poverty and homelessness gnawing at the heart of our Polk County community. As Poverty Awareness Month casts its stark light, the statistics whisper stories of struggle, etching a picture of hardship on the faces of our neighbors.

Food insecurity casts a long shadow here. 14.4% of Polk County residents, over 156,000 souls, grapple with it daily, according to Feeding America. One in seven live with the gnawing uncertainty of where their next meal will come from.

IMG 2861 Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL

The housing situation paints an even bleaker picture. On any given night, nearly 1,500 individuals endure homelessness, the burden heaviest in Lakeland. Families with children, veterans, and those battling mental health challenges bear the brunt of this burden, seeking shelter in cardboard boxes, cars, or the cold embrace of the streets.

These statistics are more than just cold numbers; they are human stories etched in every empty stomach and cardboard box. We cannot afford to turn away from these realities. Instead, let’s use Poverty Awareness Month not as a time for pronouncements, but as a space for quiet contemplation and reflection.

IMG 6587 rotated Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL

Consider this: every third child in Polk County qualifies for free or reduced-price school meals. 12.2% of households, nearly 88,000 families, struggle to afford housing, their lives teetering on the edge of eviction. And the median household income, hovering around $60,901, barely keeps pace with the rising cost of living, leaving many families treading water, desperately trying to stay afloat.

These numbers demand a pause, a moment to step beyond ourselves and peer into the shadows where struggles persist. They are a stark reminder of the work that remains, the bridges yet to be built, and the walls of poverty that still stand tall.

Let Poverty Awareness Month serve as a mirror, reflecting not just the hardship, but also the resilience of the human spirit. Let these statistics not ignite a call to action, but rather a flicker of empathy, a quiet understanding that our community’s strength lies not in walls erected between us, but in bridges built on compassion and shared humanity.

Only then can we truly begin to illuminate the path toward a brighter future for all in Polk County, where the shadows of poverty recede, replaced by the warmth of opportunity and the shared glow of a community that lifts its most vulnerable together.

Hunger and Homelessness Outreach Program 03202023 rotated Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL

Sources:

In addition to these sources, you may also find these resources helpful for further information about poverty and homelessness in Polk County:

2023 AT TALBOT HOUSE MINISTRIES

2023 AT TALBOT HOUSE MINISTRIES

2023 at Talbot House Ministries: A Year of Impact and Gratitude

As the curtains fall on 2023, we find ourselves reflecting on the incredible journey we’ve shared with our cherished supporters, like you, who have stood by our side in our unwavering commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of those in need. Your generosity has been the heartbeat of our mission, and as we look back on the year, we are thrilled to share the remarkable impact we’ve achieved together.

Nourishing the Community: 125,618 Meals Served

Your support has been the driving force behind the 125,618 meals we served this year. Together, we’ve ensured that no one in our community goes to bed on an empty stomach. Your compassion has filled not just stomachs but hearts with hope.

IMG 7028 Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL
Diana Chavez 2 Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL

Sheltering Dreams: 3,291 People Emergency Sheltered

In the face of homelessness, your generosity has provided 3,291 individuals with more than just shelter—it’s been a lifeline during their times of greatest need. Together, we’ve created a safe and welcoming space where dreams can be nurtured and possibilities can unfold.

Rebuilding Lives: 806 People in Housed Resident Programs

Through our resident programs, your contributions have been the cornerstone of hope for 806 individuals. You’ve given them the opportunity to rebuild their lives, arming them with the tools and support needed to break free from the cycle of homelessness. Your belief in second chances has ignited transformative journeys.

janatorial scaled Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL
Kitchen scaled Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL

A Pantry of Hope: 3,296 Food Boxes Distributed to the Community

Your unwavering support has enabled us to maintain a robust food pantry, distributing 3,296 food boxes to struggling families. In times of hardship, your contributions have provided not just sustenance but a lifeline of hope for those facing challenging circumstances.

Extending Compassion Beyond Walls: 967 Items Given to Encampments

Beyond our immediate facilities, your generosity has reached 967 individuals in encampments, providing essential items that bring comfort and relief to those facing challenging conditions. Your compassion knows no bounds, touching lives outside the walls of our shelter.

Image3 scaled Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL
IMG 3548 scaled Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL

Homes for Families: 181 Families Housed in the Community

Collaborating with community partners, we’ve worked tirelessly to house 181 families throughout the community. Together, we’ve provided not just shelter but the foundation for brighter futures.

Serving the Heart of the Community: 3,477+ Children and Families Served

Beyond housing and food services, we’ve continued to serve the heart of our community—its children. With your support, we’ve touched the lives of 3,477+ children and families, creating a ripple effect of positive change.

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On behalf of everyone at Talbot House Ministries, we extend our deepest gratitude for your steadfast commitment to our mission. Your generosity empowers us to continue serving our community with compassion and dedication.

Thank you for being a vital part of our journey. As we bid farewell to 2023, we wish you and your loved ones a joyous holiday season and a new year filled with hope, prosperity, and the promise of making even greater strides toward a brighter future.

The Heartwarming Story of Maria: A Community Coming Together

The Heartwarming Story of Maria: A Community Coming Together

Maria Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL

The Heartwarming Story of Maria: A Community Coming Together

In the vast landscape of stories that weave through our lives, there are some that stand out and touch our hearts in a special way. The story of Maria is one such tale, a testament to the power of community support, compassion, and the impact we can have on the lives of those in need.

Maria reached out for assistance during a challenging time in her life. She is currently undergoing cancer treatment and is anxiously awaiting surgery scheduled for November 8th. In a world where we’re bombarded with numerous calls for help each day, something about Maria’s situation resonated deeply with us.

Originally from Venezuela, Maria has been a U.S. citizen for nearly 30 years. Her life has been one of hard work and determination, spending over 25 years as a self-employed housekeeper. But life took an unexpected turn when her health was compromised by a cancer diagnosis, rendering her unable to continue her work. The fear of homelessness, something she had never faced before, became a stark and unsettling reality.

When Maria reached out to us, the desperation in her voice was palpable. Her story is a testament to how quickly life can change, and the fear and uncertainty that can grip even the strongest among us.

Our response to Maria’s call for help was swift and determined. Thanks to our Diversion Funds, we were able to provide her with the support she needed to catch up on her October rent. We also reached out to local providers who stepped up with tremendous generosity, committing to cover her November rent while she awaits assistance from the Florida Cancer Specialists Foundation.

But the story doesn’t end there. We didn’t just stop at financial aid. We connected Maria with various community resources that will help open doors to more substantial, long-term assistance. Every step of the way, we’ve been there for her, ensuring she receives the support she needs during this difficult chapter in her life.

Last but certainly not least, we partnered with the Homeless Coalition to secure her a spot on the housing voucher waitlist, providing Maria with a glimmer of hope and stability for the future.

Maria’s story is a testament to the strength of community support and the incredible difference it can make in the lives of individuals facing adversity. It serves as a reminder that, when we come together to help those in need, we have the power to create profound and positive change. Maria’s journey is a shining example of the impact we can have on the lives of others when we stand united in support and compassion.

Let’s continue to be a beacon of hope for those like Maria and make a positive difference in our community.

UNRAVELING HOMELESSNESS OCT. 19

UNRAVELING HOMELESSNESS OCT. 19

Every day, we welcome people from all walks of life — working professionals, mothers, senior citizens, and even high school students. Some of our clients have had successful careers as computer programmers or mathematics professors. While many were born and raised in Polk County, others originate from as far away as Brazil. What do they have in common?

“Why do people need Talbot House?”

They may not ask in so many words, but many of our visitors, volunteers, and supporters find themselves wondering what leads some of our clients into homelessness. After interviewing countless clients, we have arrived at five “common threads” that can cause an individual to find themselves at Talbot House.

Oct. 19, 2023 | RP Funding Center

Unraveling Homelessness

“Common threads” of homelessness

Poverty.

ALICE budget Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL
The United Way of Florida’s “Household Survival Budget” depicts the estimated costs of living in Polk County, and the hourly wage needed to support these needs.

While approximately 16 percent of Polk County residents live in poverty (US Census, 2022), that does not tell the entire story. An additional 34 percent of families are considered “asset-limited, income-constrained, employed” (or “ALICE”). ALICE households may work several jobs, but because the costs of living continue to rise they are barely able to meet the demands of daily living. This means that ALICE households are unable to save money for an emergency or invest in their future. One car accident, medical emergency, or other unexpected expense can be enough to plunge approximately half of the county’s citizens into poverty or even homelessness.

It’s expensive to live in poverty. Limited income means that families have to make tough choices about what to sacrifice, often choosing lower-quality goods and services or going without. Some rely on payday loans or credit cards to fill in the gaps; these temporary solutions come with exorbitant fees and high interest rates which plunge them further into poverty.

Poverty often feels like a cyclical trap. At Talbot House, our clients’ average hourly wage is $13.50. Solutions’ employment programs and comprehensive support help to break the cycle, offering educational and professional opportunities to earn gainful employment and begin saving money.

Illness.

Chronic illnesses, comorbidities, and mental illnesses often correlate with homelessness. Nearly 17 percent of Polk County residents lack health insurance, which means that even basic preventative care may be out of their budget.

Florida faces extreme shortages of health professionals. Our community is designated by the US Health Resources and Services Administration as “Professional Shortage Area” for primary, dental, and mental health care. According to Polk County’s 2022 Community Health Assessment, we are disproportionately affected by these shortages even compared to the rest of the state.

Lack of access to health care correlates to poor quality of life — obesity, infant mortality rates, and chronic disease. It also increases the demand on our local emergency departments; the average cost of an ER visit was $7,815 in 2019, when Lakeland Regional Medical Center was the busiest Emergency Department in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of access to health care on our community.

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At Talbot House, the Good Samaritan Free Clinic exists to remove barriers to care by treating low-income, uninsured Polk County residents. We provide primary, dental, and mental health care for free along with prescription medications to those in need. The Clinic also facilitates STD testing and treatment, vaccinations, and educational workshops which are open to the community. In this way, we address illnesses at all stages, improve quality of life, and impact overall public health outcomes.

Abuse.

Unfortunately, many of our clients come to us with traumatic histories of domestic or sexual violence, Adverse Childhood Experiences, and other forms of abuse.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) are defined as specific traumas or challenges in a child’s home life such as emotional, physical, or mental abuse; substance abuse in the household; incarcerated or separated parents, or parental neglect. ACE’s are correlated to mental illness later in life. Nearly 25 percent of surveyed Polk County residents report four or more ACE’s according to Polk Vision’s 2021 report.

Some people turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism, which produces its own array of problems. There were 275 drug overdose deaths in Polk County in 2020, a 39 percent increase. However, not all struggling with homelessness are addicts.

Traumatic childhoods, abusive marriages, and other unspeakable situations can cause people to live in a fight-or-flight mentality. Constantly on guard, these individuals find it hard to form trusting relationships, maintain jobs, save money, and take care of themselves. Just as abuse is not the fault of the victim, this coping mechanism is not their fault and not insurmountable. With trauma-informed care, one-on-one assistance, and the love of God, victims of abuse can find the strength to move on with their lives.

At Talbot House, we offer sober-living recovery programs structured to stabilize and empower those who seek to overcome their circumstances, address their grief, and achieve a fresh start in life. Our case managers are trained in mental health first aid and trauma-informed care. Volunteer-led Bible studies, worship nights, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings also provide clients the opportunity to grow personally and spiritually.

Food Insecurity.

Talbot House is located in a food desert surrounded by food deserts; approximately 13 percent of Polk County is considered food-insecure. This is 18.3 percent greater than the national average. However, even in areas where grocery stores are available, our neighbors can struggle to provide healthy food for their families. Transportation barriers and the rising costs of groceries can lead to unhealthy choices. During the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, rising grocery prices confront families with difficult decisions almost every day. The Consumer Price Index reports a 5.3 percent increase in food prices year-over-year in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area. A lack of access to healthy food correlates to a wide range of chronic illnesses and social problems, including homelessness.

Feeding has always been at the heart of Talbot House Ministries’ work. Founded as a soup kitchen, we still serve three hot meals a day to those in need and offer a food pantry twice weekly. Last fiscal year, we served 138,096 meals and distributed 4,200 food boxes to our food-insecure neighbors. In July alone, we served an average of 452 meals per day.

We have recently began expanding our reach into other areas of Polk County, where food is even harder to access. Twice a month, Talbot House staff are visiting unsheltered encampments in Winter Haven and other rural areas, sharing food and water, providing medical and hygienic supplies, and connecting them with other services as needed. Already we have helped these individuals with identification, transportation, and are working to screen them for housing options. The long-term goal of this outreach program is to reduce unsheltered homelessness.

giving community volunteers at talbot house lakeland florida homeless shelter

Lack of Affordable Housing.

Earlier this year, Lakeland was ranked the third fastest-growing “boomtown” in the U.S. in terms of population and business growth. This unprecedented expansion has put even more pressure on an already competitive housing market. While the City of Lakeland has made affordable housing development a priority, the need for affordable units grew exponentially over the past few years and remains an urgent need across Polk County.

The average monthly rent in Lakeland was $1,505 last year; average rental costs increased more than 25 percent in Lakeland from 2020-2022. Even for clients with good income and savings, obtaining housing can prove problematic. Many of our clients have a history of evictions, poor credit, criminal records, or other factors that would cause landlords to pass over their application. For these reasons, Talbot House is constantly seeking ways to expand its own affordable housing portfolio.

Through a variety of programs and collaborative partnerships, Talbot House helped 373 individuals find affordable housing last year. We own and operate a total of 46 units of affordable housing; the average rent for these units is approximately $400 a month. This year, we will increase our housing portfolio by 65 percent when our partners at Plateau Village open. Talbot House has agreed to provide supportive staff at Plateau Village to assist residents with wraparound services; we will also have the ability to refer individuals to Plateau Village for housing.

A new Diversion program launched this year offers immediate assistance to individuals and families who find themselves temporarily homeless and struggling to find housing. So far, Talbot House has used its limited pool of Diversion funding to help 60 people move into their own apartments or reunite with family, effectively ending their homelessness.

Weaving a stronger future

While any one of the five “common threads” above are enough to plunge a person into homelessness, we often find that our clients struggle with several — or all five — at once. For these people, Talbot House’s “one-stop shop” model provides them with the comprehensive support they need to overcome barriers, identify needs, and move forward.

Talbot House can’t achieve its mission alone. Every day, we depend on the generosity of our community to help us meet the great needs of our clients. Through donations, gifts of clothing and food, volunteer hours, prayer, and advocacy, you help broken lives find hope at our doors.

Please join us on Oct. 19, 2023 at the RP Funding Center for our annual fundraising event, where we will bring these five “common threads” to life through real client testimony and personal stories. Your presence means the world to the hundreds of men and women seeking real life change at Talbot House every day.

1 Talbot House Homelessness Lakeland FL