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.