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Pandemic Putting Crimp In Nonprofit's Programs That Help The Homeless Find Jobs

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A South Florida nonprofit that operates successful programs which get the homeless off the streets and into gainful employment is facing a budget crisis.

The pandemic has put a crimp in a major funding source which is tied to Miami-Dade's food and beverage tax.

The nonprofit Chapman Partnership operates two homeless assistance centers in Miami and Homestead with a total of 800 beds.

Chapman Partnership is a private sector partner of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. Not only do they offer shelter, but education.

"We empower our residents to gain self-sufficiency back into the community, everything from medical support to behavioral support," said Chapman Partnership President and CEO Symeria T. Hudson.

Then came the pandemic and with it a major change in cleaning protocols, social distancing, masks, and no more self-service meals in accordance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

"We had to modify how we interacted with clients, we didn't compromise services and programs," said Hudson.

She notes that one of their most important programs, the Workforce Trades program, continued unabated.

"Because of the resilience of our staff, employees and residents we were able to continue this program. We graduated 19 individuals from our carpentry and electrical program," said Hudson.

The nonprofit's assistance centers are owned and funded by the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust. The Trust receives part of its funding from the county's food and beverage tax which saw sharp declines during the pandemic.

"We have had some months where the food and beverage tax revenues were off by more than 65 percent. When you put consecutive months, which we had ten months, plus of, these large double-digit declines, it is a 'gut punch' to our ability to maintain the programs at the success levels we've had," said Homeless Trust Chair Ron Book.

The hope is with more people getting vaccinated, and we don't see another wave of coronavirus infections, the funding will return to higher levels.

"We have had to cut budget dramatically. We are just hoping at the end of the day there is an uptick in people eating out in our restaurants and the food and beverage tax decline gets cut and starts to go back up," said Book.

He added that the Chapman Partnership workforce trades program is important for the community. He notes that the placement and success rate for the formerly homeless graduates of the program hovers around 70 percent.


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