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


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.

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.

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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.

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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


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