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Lee County re-housing homeless families, keeping them together

Lee County commissioners are taking the next step in making sure families no longer struggle with homelessness. The county wants to help keep people off the streets. More than that: it wants to be able to keep families together.

That is why families have been put up in hotels while Lee County works to find them permanent housing.

“We wanted to go from the hotel to getting the case manager to working on how to identify permanent housing, so it’s really one-two-three steps,” said Lee County commissioner Kevin Ruane. “Identifying the person, getting them in a place, assign them to a counselor and a commitment to see ‘OK, how do we transition them into long-term housing?'”

Ruane says understanding people’s needs and keeping families together is the goal. Lee County mother Victoria Gendron is one of the people who has been helped so far. She and her three children were homeless before being matched with a permanent home a few months ago. But before that, she had to separate from her kids for six weeks while they worked to find that home. Gendron believes that if this new program had been around a few months ago, it would have helped her and her kids stay together during those weeks.

“That six weeks, I’m gonna be honest, was the hardest six weeks of my life,” Gendron said. “I was working 60 hours a week, and then I would pick them up on Saturdays. And I would spend Saturdays with them, but dropping them back off… that was, like, a tear in my heart, for real.”

She says there is hope even when you think there is none, you just have to find it.

“Finding childcare, paying for everything by myself… that made it a struggle, being a single mom for so long,” Gendron said. “That’s, like, changed my whole situation. After three-and-a-half years of bouncing from place to place. It gave me stability that me and the kids have longed for for so long.”

So far, 96 people and families have been put into hotels so that they can then be put into a permanent home. On Tuesday, commissioners will take it a step further, voting to approve $500,000 to work with the Salvation Army and Centerstone to counsel and place families.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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