Home is where the heart is.
And for some lucky clients of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC) for the homeless, hearts are swelling this week, as they prepare to move into newly refurbished homes at the Poinciana property on Duck Avenue.
"This place is perfect for me," said Jim Evens, a terminally ill hepatitis C sufferer with mobility issues. "I have a hard time climbing stairs these days, and even getting into the shower can be a problem. This place, though, is somewhere that I can focus on inner peace and being joyful. It's going to make a 100 percent difference in my quality of life."
Officially, the new digs are described by the FKOC as Transitional Supportive Housing. The units are the first on the Poinciana property to fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They're also the first coalition homes to offer space to couples with children.
The four units were built into two existing concrete single family homes on the former Navy housing site, with couples, with or without children, and the physically challenged in mind. The $200,000 total cost of the work was provided by the Jubilee Foundation, and Beaver Farm Foundation, in conjunction with Peace Covenant Presbyterian Church. Contractor Niels Hubbell donated his labor, and additional help was provided by employees of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Coast Guard.
The furniture was all donated, though the FKOC bought all the appliances brand-new.
Each unit has about 450 square feet of living space and conveniences such as custom child proofing in the family apartments, and low-level light switches in the homes built for the physically challenged
Already, the FKOC has housing available for single men at the William M. Neece Center for Homeless Recovery, on Patterson Avenue, and at Sunrise House, Sunshine House, and Sunrich House, at Poinciana. Housing facilities for single women, with or without children, include Sunflower and Sunlight House, also at Poinciana.
"We're seeing increased demand for housing for the elderly and frail," said FKOC President and CEO the Rev. Stephen Braddock. "It's a growing challenge for us, as many people are beginning to outlive their resources."
Braddock stressed the units were built for very low income adults, with preference given to chronically homeless individuals and families.
The sliding scale rental rates can run from $300 on the low end, to no higher than $450.
The coalition never charges extra for children, and most prospective renters are on some sort of disability, Braddock said.
Case Manager Stephanie Kaple said the coalition is always pleased to be able to offer new housing opportunities to its clients.
"We were putting finishing touches on the places this weekend, and talking about how cool it is that people who have been living in shelters now have a place to live," Kaple said.
"It's something most of us take for granted."
All four units have already been rented out, but the coalition is maintaining a waiting list, Braddock said.
For more information about the apartments, or the FKOC in general, call 305-294-0304, or visit fkoc.org.