Publix Continues Founder's Generosity and Concern for Homeless and Needy

(Photo Courtesy of Ronald Roberts)

Publix Store Manager, Kevin Piper, presents a $5,000 check on behalf of Publix Supermarket Charities to Rev. Stephen E. Braddock, President and CEO of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition.

Publix is the longest contributing sponsor in FKOC's 20-year history of providing housing and supportive services to individuals and families recovering from homelessness in our community.

The portrait seen hanging above Piper and Braddock is of Publix founder, George Jenkins. Towards the end of his life Jenkins was asked how much he'd be worth if he had not given so much of his money away? Mr. Jenkins responded, "Probably nothing."

Florida Keys Outreach Coalition Elects Board, Celebrates at 20th Annual Meeting

(Photo Courtesy of Digital Island Media)

(KW) Monroe County Judge Peary Fowler (center) cut FKOC's 20th anniversary cake after administering the oath of office to the organization's board of directors for 2012/13. FKOC is the first homeless service provider established in the Florida Keys to aide individuals and families. The group operates five residential facilities and a food pantry. Pictured: Ron Roberts, Bill Malpass, Dr. Eric Nichols, Rev. Randy Becker, Paul Clayton, Rev. Larry Schenck, Gina Pecora, Rev. Sarah Fowler, Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, Rev. Stephen Braddock, Jenny Wolfe and Sam Kaufman. Not pictured: John Sangston, Dr. Rose Chan, Niels Hubbell.
For more pictures and Awards, click here!

Donation Honors Late Homeless Advocate

(photo courtesy of Ron Roberts)

The Law Offices of Samuel J. Kaufman contributed $5,000 to the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition in memory of the late Gabriel Mardones. Mardones was former FKOC employee who was killed in a tragic accident last year. The funds will be split between FKOC's Endowment Fund with the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys and the organization's Transitional Supportive Housing Programs. Kaufman is the Chairman of FKOC's Board of Directors.

(L-R) Sam Kaufman, FKOC's Gina Pecora, and Rev. Stephen Braddock

April 2012
Sailors Help Homeless Coalition

(photo courtesy of Ron Roberts)

Dozens of Sailors from the USS Ft. McHenry volunteered at the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition during their three days of liberty. The massive 610-foot ship is docked in Key West before deploying to the Baltic Sea this week. The sailors pictured above did exterior and interior painting at FKOC's Neece Center for Homeless Recovery.

For more pictures, click here

FKOC Celebrates

(photo by Ron Roberts)
See story and more pictures here

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lethinen pays tribute to the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition.
(view one minute video)

Presidential Advisor Congratulates FKOC for 20-years of Homeless Services

President Obama's Senior Advisor on Homelessness, Barbara Poppe, congratulates Rev. Stephen E, Braddock on the 20th anniversary of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC). Poppe is Executive Director of the United Stated Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). The USICH is comprised of 17 members of the President's Cabinet and Agency Directors. FKOC will be hosting a Key West visit by Director Poppe later this year.

Avael Honored with 7th Annual Edward "Capt'n" Kidd Humanitarian Award

RaiEtte Avael received the 7th annual Edward "Capt'n" Kidd Humanitarian Award during the 20th Anniversary celebration of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition. The award is sponsored by Legacy Films, the producer of the movie Have You Seen Clem, a "docu-dram-edy" that featured Edward Kidd, a Key West homeless man well known for his generosity and humanitarian spirit. Kidd died soon after the award winning movie was released. Avael is flanked by last year's honoree, J.T. Thompson and Rev. Stephen Braddock, the awards first recipient. Braddock praised Avael for her tireless advocacy on behalf of the homeless, children, families, elderly, disabled, addicted and mentally ill. She recently retired after a distinguished 33-year career of public service but continues to volunteer and serve on a number of community boards.

Presbyterians Support FKOC/Healthy Start Programs for Homeless Pregnant Women

(Photo Contributed by Ron Roberts)

(KW) Peace Covenant Presbyterian Church and the National Presbyterian Hunger Program recently contributed a combined $3,000 to provide food, diapers, and personal hygiene items to the FKOC/Healthy Start Program which will provide 24-homeless pregnant women and their children with housing, case management, prenatal care and other supportive services over the coming year. Individuals & organizations can sponsor a mom and infant for $400 per month. Call 305-294-0304 for more information.

(Photo:L-R) FKOC President, Rev. Stephen E. Braddock; FKOC Treasurer, John Sangston; FKOC Program Manager, Stephanie Kaple; Florida Keys Healthy Start Coalition Administrative Assist., Leah Stockton; Peace Covenant's Pastor, Rev. Larry Schenk; Peace Covenant's Mission Committee Chair and FKOC Board Member, Niels Hubbell

December 21,2011

Rite Honors 14 who died homeless

BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff

Navy Honor Guard Members fold a flag that was flown over the US Capitol to honor the homeless veterans who died in Monroe County this year. The Homeless Memorial Day service was held at Key West Cemetery and sponsored by the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition and One Human Family.

See full story here

November 2011

Cruise Association Renews Support for FKOC

(Photo Courtesy of Carnival Freedom)

Captain Agostino Fazio welcomed Rev. Stephen Braddock and Stephanie Kaple to the bridge of the Carnival Cruise Ship Freedom and presented a contribution on behalf of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association to support the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition's residential program for pregnant homeless women.

(L-R) Hotel Manager, Jose Pisa; FKOC Program Manager, Stephanie Kaple; FKOC CEO, Rev. Stephen Braddock; Captain Agostino Fazio; Staff Captain, Gordon Buck.

Homeless and pregnant women find a safe haven

See full story here

October 4, 2011
United Way Supports Children at FKOC

(Photo Courtesy of Ron Roberts)

(KW) Margie Smith, President of the United Way of the Florida Keys (center) presents a $10,000 ceremonial check to the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition to support the organization's programs for homeless children. Accepting the contribution at FKOC's Children's Activities Center are Program Manager, Stephanie Kaple and President & CEO, Rev. Stephen E. Braddock. The United Way has supported FKOC for 13-consecutive years. FKOC operates five transitional housing facilities with supportive services that accommodate up to 122- homeless individuals and families. An average of 85% "graduate" and transition to some form of permanent housing.

September 27-28, 2011

For full story and photos, click here

September 16, 2011
Key West Urgent Care Supports FKOC

(KW)Janet Van Tuyl, R.N., owner of
Key West Urgent Care, presents a $5,000 check to Rev. Stephen Braddock of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless (FKOC). The donation was made in memory of her late husband and clinic founder, Dr. John Van Tuyl. Dr. Van Tuyl was close to Braddock and a strong supporter of FKOC's Transitional Housing programs for individuals and families. He died August 13th at age 64.

KEY WEST CITIZEN ~ July 17, 2011
Program Teaches Husbands,
Dads How to be Loving

February 27, 2011

Loaves and Fish Food Pantry Receives Continued Support from Episcopal Diocese

The Loaves and Fish Food Pantry, a collaborative anti-hunger initiative sponsored by the Episcopal Church and the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC) recently received a grant from Episcopal Charities of Southeast Florida in the the amount of $11,500.

Episcopal Charities has contributed more than $100,000 over the past decade to help needy individuals and families in Key West and has pledged continued support for 2012.

The main pantry is located at FKOC's Neece Center for Homeless Recovery, 2221 Patterson Avenue. A second distribution site has been established at St. Peter's Thrift Shop located on Center Street across from St. Peter's Episcopal Church.
Call 295-7580 for assistance or information.

(Photo by Ron Roberts)
(L-R) FKOC Treasurer, John Sangston; FKOC Chairman, Sam Kaufman; FKOC Board Member and St. Peter's Deacon, Sarah Fowler; St. Peter's Rector, Rev. Don Sullivan; FKOC President & CEO, Rev. Stephen Braddock; FKOC Deputy Director, Gina Pecora.

New law, task force aims to protect homeless

Huffington Post: April 28th, 2010

As Homeless Are Brutalized, Florida Passes Hate Crime Protection

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hate crime law may include homeless



Go shopping with Episcopal Charities to support enhanced funding for the Loaves and Fish Food Pantry . The need is great, the shopping is easy and fun! Online donations received during National Hunger and Homelessness week, November 10th -17th , will be distributed to the Loaves and Fish Food Pantry , a program sponsored by St. Peter's Episcopal Church and the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition A collaborative anti-hunger ministry, the Loaves and Fish Pantry provides food, disposable diapers and personal hygiene items to needy individuals and families in the Key West area.

Have fun while helping to feed the hungry.

Enter our supermarket and click on the grocery items to fill up your shopping cart! Its so much fun we know you'll want to keep shopping!

Enter Episcopal Charities Market Now!

September 8, 2011
NAS Supports Loaves & Fish Food Pantry

Naval Air Station Key West recently participated in the National Feds Feed Families Food Drive. The Navy delivered tons of food to the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition's (FKOC) Loaves and Fish Food Pantry. From left is RP1 Morrell, AWR1 Remmers, who headed up the local effort, FKOC's Chris Welts, Sam Kaufman, and Gina Pecora, RP2 Sanchez, and RP2 Ware. To receive assistance or donate food, call FKOC at (305) 295-7580.

July 22, 2011
Top Shelf 3 Serves Up More
Tasty Dishes

Using only non-perishable food items and a limited budget of $15 seven delicious dishes were created for this year's Top Shelf 3 held Friday July 22 nd at the BottleCap Groove Lounge and Bar. The annual event which benefits the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition's Women and Children's program once again provided a wide variety of dishes to sample including Black Bean & Corn Salad, Chicken Pot Pie, Thai soup and much more. This year's event was sponsored by Centennial Bank with additional support by the Key West Design Group and The Doubletree Grand Key Resort.

The People's Choice Award went to The Doubletree Grand Key Resort for their Thai Chicken Soup. The Judge's Choice Award was won by Dara Font for her dish of corn beef with tomato gravy over rice. A special thanks to all of the chefs who created these very tasty dishes and to everyone who came out to sample them as well.

Celebrity bartenders helping serve up drinks during the event included City Commissioner Jimmy Weekly, Key West Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Virginia Panico, and State Representative Ron Saunders.

(photo by Ron Roberts)
Picture: Left to right- Back Row- FKOC President & CEO Steve Braddock, State Representative Ron Saunders, KW City Commissioner Jimmy Weekly, FKOC Board Chairman Sam Kaufman, Aaron Moore. Left to right- Front Row- Carolyn Sullivan, Stephanie Kaple, Chamber of Commerce Executive V.P. Virginia Panico and Tara Brannigan.

Dr. Nichols Graduates from Board Leadership Academy

Click here for full story


Congresswoman Makes Christmas Visit to Homeless Children

(Photo by Debbie Zimmerman)

(L-R) FKOC Deputy Director, Gina Pecora; Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lethinen; FKOC President, Rev. Stephen Braddock; FKOC Board Chairman, Sam Kaufman

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lethinen made a Christmas Eve visit to the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless.
After touring the group's five newly renovated transitional housing facilities, Ros-Lethinen presided over a tree lighting ceremony before handing out gifts to dozens of homeless children.

To See the Visit, Click Here


(Photo by Rob O'Neil-Key West Citizen)

The Rev. Stephen Braddock offers a prayer over the cremated remains of 23 homeless Florida Keys residents Tuesday afternoon at the Key West Cemetery.
After City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley presented a proclamation honoring those who died in the street this year - who ranged in age from 33 to 70 years old - their names were read aloud as golden bells were placed on a large wreath adorning the vault owned by the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition.

DECEMBER 21, 2010

(Photo Courtesy of Alyson Crean, P.I.O., City of Key West)

City Commissioners Terri Johnson,
Jimmy Weekley, and Clayton Lopez proclaim December 21st as
National Homeless Persons Memorial Day in Key West.

December 9, 2010

Key West Bar Card
Contributes to Homeless Coalition

(photo by Chris Welts)

The Key West Bar Card and the Key West Restaurant Card are proud proponents of the Island's community sensibility. Each Month, the organization donates 10% of all earnings to select local charities.
George Murphy (L) presents a check to Rev. Stephen Braddock, President of the Florida Keys Outreach Coaliton.

Vino's on Duval
Hosts Holiday Fundraiser for Homeless Children

(photo by Rob O'Neal)
(Pictured L-R) Vino's proprietors,
Val & Clayton Chelley; FKOC Program Manager, Stephanie Kaple; and FKOC President & CEO,
The Rev. Stephen E. Braddock

Vino's at 810 Duval hosted an evening of fine wine pairing to raise funds for homeless children who are sheltered this holiday season by the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC).

November 18, 2010

Key West Mayor Craig Cates and City Commisioner Jimmy Weekley proclaimed November 18th Loaves and Fish Food Pantry Day to commemorate National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the opening of the pantry, which provides food, personal care items, nutritional supplements, and disposable diapers to those in need. This vital service was started with the help of Episcopal Charities of Southeast Florida, and it continues to support the pantry, both with funds and bulk food.

"Without your support," Commisioner Weekley told Charities represenative Bonnie Weaver, "we would be really struggling."

The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition provides the facility and the funding for operational costs of the Loaves and Fish Food Pantry.

Rev. Sarah Fowler, City Commisioner Jimmy Weekley, Episcopal Charities of South Florida's Bonnie Weaver, Rev. Don Sullivan, Mayor Craig Cates, and Rev. Stephen Braddock acknowledge the 10th anniversary of Loaves and Fish Food Pantry and National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.


March 14, 2011

Miami Coalition for the Homeless Supports Key West Food Pantry

Rev. Stephen E. Braddock, President and CEO of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC), accepts a check from his friend and colleague,
Rita Clark, Policy Director for the Miami Coalition for the Homeless,.
The $1000 donation will help support the Loaves and Fish Food Pantry which provides non-perishable food, personal hygiene items and disposable diapers for needy individuals and families in Key West. The pantry is a collaborative anti-hunger initiative sponsored by FKOC and St. Peter's Episcopal Church. To contribute food or financial assistance, or to request aid, please call FKOC at (305)295-7580.




Homeless and pregnant women find a safe haven

Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen Sunday, October 9, 2011

BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff

At age 28, a homeless woman who is pregnant and working a $9-an-hour part-time job doesn't want to draw attention to herself, including having her name published in the newspaper. But her baby girl is due to enter this world on Dec. 28, so she sought help when her circumstances exceeded her pride.
She now has a temporary home thanks to a new pilot program between two Florida Keys nonprofits that gives homeless pregnant women a safe, free place to live during the two months before and four months after giving birth.
In addition to a temporary home at Poinciana Plaza -- the standard $80 a week housing fee is waived for that critical six-month period before and after delivery -- the program offers case management and all-purpose support.
"It's based on what is best for the baby," said Arianna Nesbitt, executive director of the Florida Keys Healthy Start Coalition since 2005. "In the long run, this allows them to create a family that is stable. Our desire is for these new moms to focus 100 percent on being a mom."
Ensuring a healthy birth for both the mother and newborn, and some stability for the family, is the goal, said Nesbitt. "By adding this new focus, we are trying to give them the opportunity not to need other services."
The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless (FKOC) and Florida Keys Healthy Start banded together to start this supportive housing program that can help 24 women over the next year, with a $48,000 budget, all funded from grants that include the Gilbert Beaver Farm ministry in New York and the Klaus/Murphy Foundation in the Keys.
In Florida, the fastest-growing population of homeless is children. "Intact families" are also finding themselves doubling or tripling up with relatives, or bouncing from couch to couch, or floor to floor.
"Homelessness has become generational," said the Rev. Stephen Braddock, FKOC's CEO and president. "We are seeing it in this community. We believe we can intervene."
The roots of homelessness can be traced to mental illness, alcoholism and/or abject poverty. "Pregnancy should never be on that list," said Braddock.

The state's homeless shelters -- 9,000 emergency shelter beds and 13,000 transitional housing spots -- are leaving most of the 86,000 homeless out in the cold, Braddock said.
The two nonprofits have worked together for some time trying to help pregnant women who are without homes. When the need clearly began to rise over the past two years, they decided the Keys needed a formal program to address it.
Monroe County averages about 750 births each year, of which 550 are delivered at Lower Keys Medical Center, the only Keys hospital that offers the service, according to Healthy Start.
Pride isn't the only factor for pregnant women who hide their homelessness from nonprofits, said Nesbitt: Not having a stable home can amount to negligence to the state Department of Children and Families. Many of the social services available to pregnant and homeless women are required to report the mother if they feel the child is endangered by the lack of a home.
In Key West, women who are homeless and pregnant are becoming more visible.
"We had two women within a week knocking on our door, saying, 'I need a bed,' " said Stephanie Kaple, the Women's Program Case Manager at FKOC. "We dropped what we were doing and figured it out. We have to make a list. I'm full right now."
The woman who asked The Citizen not to publish her name said the program has given her peace of mind and hope for a reunited family. "If any woman is ever in this situation, they should definitely come here," said the woman, who has a 4-year-old son and a boyfriend in Key West. "Don't give up."
This struggling, split-up family is new to the life of unemployment, homeless shelters and fear of being judged over their pocketbooks and addresses. Healthy Start provided her with a bus pass, after she had been walking to and from her job. A stroller came, and then a crib. People are around when she is hungry or needs someone to talk to.
A couple of years ago, the woman and her boyfriend worked in construction. She earned $18 an hour.

"Then the economy went down two years ago," she said. "I lost my job and went on unemployment for two years. We moved from Key West to two different cities trying to rebuild. The higher up we went, the worse it was."



December 2011

Memorial Service Scheduled for Deceased Keys Homeless

Since 1990, The National Coalition for the Homeless has sponsored National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day on or near the first day of winter (December 21) to remember our homeless friends who have paid the ultimate price for our nation's failure to address the issue of homelessness and its underlying causes.

Last year, Key West was one of 141 communities across the country to participate in the national commemoration.

The FKOC has been organizing these local memorial services since the year 2000; and four years ago we purchased our own vault in Key West Cemetery.

We invite everyone to join with FKOC, Monroe County Social Services, and SHAL members this December 21 st , at 3pm to pay our respects to over a dozen individuals who have died homeless in Key West and Monroe County over this past year. Ushers will be on hand at the main gate of the cemetery by the Sexton's office to direct you to the vault.

As we enter the New Year, let's make 2012 a time when our local advocates, friends, community leaders and service providers increase awareness for the need to bring more efforts and resources to address this national disgrace in a realistic and responsible manner.

(Photo L-R) FKOC Chairman Sam Kaufman accepts a proclamation from Key West Mayor Craig Cates and City Commissioner & FKOC Vice-Chair Jimmy Weekley declaring December 21st as National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day in the Southernmost City.

February 2010


Margie Smith, newly appointed President of United Way of the Florida Keys, recently visited Rev. Stephen Braddock, President of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition. Smith toured FKOC's six facilities and was especially pleased to see the newly renovated Children's Activity Center, a program for homeless children which was enthusiastically supported by the United Way Board of Directors. The coalition operates six facilities for homeless individuals and families.

Supports Florida Keys Outreach Coalition

(photo by Chris Welts)

Publix Key West Store Manager, Kevin Piper, presents a $5,000 check on behalf of Publix Supermarket Charities to FKOC Deputy Director Gina Pecora. Publix has supported the Coalition's Transitional Housing Program for ten consecutive years.


Sam Kaufman (L) is thanked by Rev. Braddock for 10 years of dedicated service as a member of the FKOC Board of Directors. Kaufman, a local attorney, serves as the board's Chairman


Rev. Thomas Sterner (L) and Rev. Stephen Braddock (R) officiate at a December 21st memorial service for 59 individuals who died homeless and indigent in the Florida Keys in 2009, including two children.


FKOC's Stephanie Kaple (C) was recently honored for her service to the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League
Kaple manages FKOC's transitional housing program for women and children.
She is pictured here with SHAL Board Chair, RaiEtte Avael; and FKOC President, Rev. Stephen E. Braddock.

September 2009

Kelly McGillis shown here with KOTS Director, Nancy Banks (l), recently visited the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter - offering hope and support to clients of that facility. McGillis has starred in films with Tom Cruise (Top Gun) and Harrison Ford (Witness) and is locally known for her humanitarian efforts. She is also the owner of Kelly's Restaurant on Whitehead St

November 15 - 21 is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

(Rev. Braddock, Bonnie Weaver, Margaret Hudson)

"Two of the most basic human needs are a safe place to live and enough food to eat," insists FKOC President and CEO, Rev. Stephen E. Braddock.

There are an estimated 3.5 million homeless persons in the United States and the number is increasing. Also, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 35.5 million people - including 12.6 million children - live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger. This represents more than one in ten households in the United States (10.9 percent).

Every year, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness cosponsor National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week one week prior to Thanksgiving, to help promote education, action and awareness about hunger and homelessness.

Here in Key West , Episcopal Charities of Southeast Florida launched a new campaign. The " Feeding Our People " program kicked off the week long observation during the diocese's annual conference.

"I am extremely grateful to Episcopal Charities and St. Paul 's Church for over 9-years of collaboration and support addressing hunger in our community" Braddock said.

"Together we have provided aid for thousands of our most needy neighbors through the Loaves and Fish Food Pantry. By working to bring more attention to the plight of the homeless and hungry, we can each foster greater understanding and solidarity to end this national disgrace."

August 2009
Key West Police Support FKOC

Key West Police Chief Donnie Lee, Jr. (R) presents a check to FKOC President Rev. Stephen E. Braddock (L).
The grant was made from the Department's Law Enforcement Trust Fund and will support FKOC's substance abuse prevention program for homeless clients in recovery from drugs or alcohol.


FKOC Deputy Director Honored

Gina Pecora, FKOC Deputy Director, was honored during the Board of Director's 17th Annual meeting for 10 years of dedicated service and
homeless advocacy.


FKOC Elects Board for 2009 - 2010

The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC) celebrated its 17th anniversary with an award luncheon on April 22nd. Monroe County Judge Peary Fowler was on hand to administer the oath of office to our newly elected Board of Directors.

Pictured: (front row, l-r) John Dionne,
John Sangston, Jennie GS Wolf,
Jimmy Weekley (Vice Chair),
Rev. Randolph Becker, Rev. Ron Paige
(back row, l-r) Paul Clayton, Rev. Sarah Fowler, Douglas Bradshaw (Treasurer),
Dr. Eric Nichols, Samuel Kaufman, Esq. (Chairman), Rev. Stephen E. Braddock, Ph.D. (President and CEO), The Honorable Peary Fowler.
(Not pictured: George Maurer,
Dennis W. Ward, Esq

17th Annual Awards Luncheon
Pictures of Client Acheivement Awards



Damaged Soles & Souls

By Stephanie Kaple, FKOC Program Manager

  I recently saw an article about the sudden increase in demand for cobblers who can save the lost soles of boots and high heels for their tired, budget-strapped owners who are pounding the pavement all the harder these days.  Across the U.S. many are asking these fading 'heroes of heels' to try to revive weary shoes for one more chance at life.  Shoes that would have once been tossed into the trash by their high fashion and often frivolous owners are now being asked to carry the load a little farther than before.  Businesswomen and men seek to stretch their Prada shoes another season or two rather than continually up-grading to this season's must-have sharp steps.  

At the same time the re-heeled are getting attention, another form of damaged souls are also in the news.   The recession has hit some harder than just their footwear; it has hit their very being in life.  Tent cities, once thought long-forgotten remnants of the Great Depression, and are now sprouting in many communities across our struggling country.  Shocking and alarming images of these make-shift villages appear on our television screens to remind those of us still in our comfortable homes that the effects of the recession are worse than cutting back on eating out or shopping.  For some, the "effects" are losing their home, their belongings, and their own self worth.  While the shocking and sad story may fall under different headlines or feature different parts of our country, the images shared in all of them are the same-these are our other damaged souls. 

As a Case Manager at a transitional homeless shelter in Key West , Florida , I am sad to say that while tent cities have found a reappearance in the media, they have been alive and well in our county, but far more hidden from our mainstream views.  I have walked through them.  I have sat with their occupants and shared coffee and conversation with them.  Although I may still go home to my apartment at the end of our talk -my life is always changed by what these worn and ragged souls have offered me.   They have offered me a chance put aside the judgments that often prevent us from seeing ourselves in others, especially when those others live a life much different and more frightening than ours.   Can we, who have never slept on the streets or called ourselves homeless, truly understand the suffering of those souls?  More challenging yet, can we drop the stereotypes that allow us to separate 'them' from 'us' and see what could be our reality?

I go back to those damaged shoe soles now getting so much needed TLC in closets around the U.S. and wonder if they are much different than the human souls at the shelters and on the streets.  Shoes, like people, come in all forms and sizes, they are frequently valued by society differently based on their appearance and titles applied, yet all shoes and people are susceptible to the dents and scratches of the world.   Both types-whether soles or souls-can hardly expect to survive this world without some form of damage.  Show me the unscratched shoe sole and you will show me one that has never left its box.  Show me a perfect human soul and you will show me a person who has not walked the journey of life. Whether shoe soles or human souls, all will surely be worn or tired from the roads or paths it has been asked to walk; either one will have carried a heavy load of life's adventures and misfortunes.  So why should one sole deserve repair over another soul?

I encourage you to take a look in your closet at some of those long lost soles you have all but forgotten and thrown away.  Perhaps it is time to think about investing in a second chance for this sole at your local cobbler.  And when you have found the ability to believe that every sole deserves a second chance, perhaps that same thought can be applied to the human souls who could use just as much love and care through our soup lines, food pantries, shelters, and in so many other ways.  I assure you these souls are also just as worthy of another chance at living before being cast aside. 

As I have learned from the many wonderful faces and the stories behind them, it is truly but for the grace of God that this soul goes in soles that take her home .



February 12, 2009

Hugs from Buffett

Women & Children's Program Manager, Stephanie Kaple, spent some time with the legendary singer/songwriter,
Jimmy Buffett.

Buffett and his Duval Street eatery, Margaritaville, have been longtime supporters of the FKOC.



September 17, 2008

"Homeless isn't Hopeless...A Remarkable Journey of Hope and Humor"

Bill Laney proudly describes the process of writing his new book, at the Library at Florida Keys Community College.

Laney's book tells his own personal story of being homeless and of the people who offered him help.

The book has already received praise from local reviewers as well as from State and National Advocacy groups.

Laney's book is available at the Florida Keys Community College Bookstore or by calling FKOC at 1-800-528-6595 (Mon - Fri, 9AM - 5PM). The book can also be ordered by email:


It's Expensive to be Homeless

(photo by Alyson Crean)

Bill Laney hopes his writing about the reality of being homeless will get more exposure.

By Alyson Crean

When you meet him, the last thing you'd think of Bill Laney is that he's homeless.

In fact, it took him close to two years living on Greyhound buses before he considered that he could apply what he calls the H word to his situation.

It's expensive to be homeless, he said. You can't stock up on groceries that are on sale, that kind of thing. You pay a premium for everything when you don't have a home.

Laney has chronicled his tale in a manuscript titled What it's Like to be Homeless, an amazingly readable foray into the unthinkable.

Unthinkable because Laney's like many of us: A lifetime of good jobs and a roof over his head, but he didn't make enough to sock a lot of money away. As he moved into his 70s, his health started to fail him and he lost his apartment because he couldn't pay the rest. Then, without a home, he lost his job; he worked for Lowes Theaters in Buffalo, N.Y.

Laney's story has drawn the attention of homeless advocates locally and in D.C. because his is the face of reality. Though people with addictions and mental illness are the stereotypical homeless, a growing number are like Bill Laney, average Americans hammered by a slowing economy and a sense of pride that won't allow them to acknowledge they need help.

Laney's mother was ill when he lost his apartment, so he worked hard to figure a way he could sleep somewhere and still be at her bedside as often as possible. That's when Greyhound and its Ameripass became a lifesaver. He calculated schedules, first around Florida, then stretching out around the country, where he could have long uninterrupted nights on a bus for sleeping and still get back to see his mother, who died in 2005.

At the same time, his health was worsening. His legs were barely functioning, and each movement was painful. Greyhound has a service that allows the disabled to board first, and Laney used it.

But throughout, he worried he might come across as a homeless person. He says he found that the big giveaway was the luggage he carried.

At first he rented a storage garage to put away some of the stuff from his apartment. But as that got too expensive, he pared it down, carrying everything that meant the most to him in a collection of bags - until the bus line he counted on to save him lost the last of those most precious mementos we cling to, the handful of photos and letters and snippets of life that remind us who we've been and why.

Whatever it is, that sense that keeps us from admitting we're down and out, kept Laney from admitting his homelessness, even after he'd finally admitted it to himself. Somehow he managed to have total joint replacement surgery on both knees without letting on to his physician that he had no home beyond a public bus.

After his mother died, Laney bounced around on buses, eventually ending up in Key West from Fort Lauderdale. Here, he stayed in the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter, or KOTS. He says the organization, the cleanliness and the sheer safety of the so-called safe zone on the grounds of the Stock Island Detention Center felt good after experiencing other parts of South Florida. And it is close to Florida Keys Community College, which has a library and computer access.

"I would not have been able to write the book without the help of the college", Laney said.

Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, read Laney's manuscript.

"Your proposed book is factual, right on the mark, well-written and is something I wish that all powers-that-be would read. I could not have done better myself", Stoops wrote to him.

Though Laney doesn't know whether his book will be published, he's optimistic. No surprise from a man who, even hobbling on the streets in pain and without a home, always finds the glass half full.

If it makes it to print, it would be a must-read. At the very least, it would help people look a little longer at that man huddled with a pile of luggage and no place to go.

Ros-Lethinen to Co-Sponsor
"Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act"

(Photo by Guillermo L. Vallejo- Legislative Correspondent)

Rev. Steve Braddock presents an Appreciation Award to Congresswoman
Ileanna Ros-Lethinen and her staff for their annual support of the Outreach Coalition's Children's Program.

(D.C.) Rev. Stephen E. Braddock, President of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, wrapped up a week of advocacy and lobbying in the Nation's Capitol with an enthusiastic committment from Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lethinen to co-sponsor the " Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act," which would include hate crimes against homeless people in the uniform hate crimes statistics collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Over the past nine years there have been 774 documented violent acts against homeless people, according to national homeless advocacy groups tracking such statistics in the absence of uniform law enforcement reporting. These attacks have resulted in 217 deaths and 557 non-lethal attacks. They range from beatings with golf clubs to setting a man on fire while sleeping. Victims have included men and women, veterans, children as young as four, youth, and elders. Attacks have taken place throughout the nation.

During this same period, hate motivated attacks resulted in 20 deaths in Florida, and 112 non-lethal attacks. Florida was #1, having the most attacks in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

In 2004, James Boyts was beaten nearly to death by teenagers as he slept at Mallory Square in Key West. After a long rehabilitation, Boyts, who just turned 58, is now on staff with the Outreach Coalition, according to Braddock.

The number of violent attacks against homeless persons resulting in deaths is more than twice the number of deaths among categories of persons recognized as potential hate crime victims in current law. Between 1999 and 2006 there were 85 homocides classified as legally-defined hate crimes. Over that same period there were 187 deaths as a result of violent acts directed at homeless people.

"It is beyond time that we improve our understanding of violent crimes against our fellow Americans due to their homeless status," Braddock said. "Rigourous and uniform tracking and reporting of such crimes is the first step in determining future actions to prevent this kind of criminal activity."

Current federal hate crime reporting standards categorize hate crimes as a crime where a victim is selected based on his/her actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. This legislation will add homeless status to this group for purposes of hate crimes collection data.

Ros-Lethinen is the first Republican lawmaker to support the Act, H.R. 2216, which was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman, Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas. "Rep. Ros-Lethinen said she was delighted to co-sponsor the bill and that it was to be one of her priorities," Braddock said after their private meeting.

"The homeless population includes the tremendous diversity of our nation - veterans, working Americans, families, and children. Yet hate-motivated attacks against them have gone unnoticed for too long. We applaud the Congresswoman for crossing the aisle on this critical initiative," said Michael Stoops, Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, "She is clearly a leader in putting the welfare of everyday Americans above party lines."

Braddock also used the opportunity to thank the 18th District Congresswoman, which includes Monroe County, for the annual support she and her Washington and Miami based staff provide to the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition's program for homeless women and children. "They truly go above and beyond to make certain that our children are all made to feel very special during the holidays," he said.

(Photo by Guillermo L. Vallejo, Legislative Correspondent)

(Washington, D.C. - July 2008)

Rev. Stephen E. Braddock, President and CEO of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition was introduced to U.S. Secretery of Commerce , Carlos M. Guierrez, by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lethinen. Braddock provided the Secretery with a recently released report by the National Coalition for the Homeless titled "Foreclosure to Homelessness: the Forgotten Victims of the Subprime Crises."

The foreclosure crises-fueled by the subprime loan melt down-is increasingly well documented. Nationally, more than two million foreclosures were reported in 2007. Nearly the same number is projected for 2008-2009. The resulting downward spiral has reduced home prices dramatically. In turn, this has sent the local city and county revenues based on local property taxes into a freefall.

Nearly forgotten in this crises are the thousands of homeowners and renters who have become homeless once their equity is exhausted. Having no other financial resources, they are moving in with relatives or friends, are turning up in local emergency shelters or have actually found themselves on the streets.

"Equally disturbing is that when local revenues plummet, as is the case in Key West and Monroe County, the first budget cuts are typically to health, mental health, and social service programs," Braddock said. "Often, these are the very programs those who become homeless will need to survive."

Monroe County nonprofits have suffered significant funding cuts from Federal, State, County, and City governments in recent weeks. "Funding is way down, need is skyrocketing, and many of our local human service providers are really struggling to provide assistance to our most needy and vulnerable," Braddock said.

Guest Editorial, Ron Paige,
Key West Citizen, July 16, 2008

A few paychecks is all that stands between many of us and the street

It is no secret that the economic times in which we live have put a pinch on the funding that a variety of nonprofit organizations receive. And, it is no secret that not only do those nonprofit organizations feel that pinch, but those who distribute public monies as well. Both the agencies and those who help fund them are between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Many people are convinced that most who are served by those agencies that have as their mission to assist the homeless or those whose circumstances and situation require some sort of assistance feel that people should either be able to make it on their own or move on to places where they can. Those feelings are what they are, feelings, and feelings are often rooted in places that are lacking facts. The facts are that we have many people in our community who are simply unable to make it.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, people who were homeless or, perhaps better put, "houseless," lived not only on the streets but behind dumpsters, in the mangroves or the dark areas about [Key West]. They lived in doorways, in abandoned vehicles behind what is now Kmart. They lived on the old Navy properties that were secured but accessible if you knew where you could find "the hole in the fence."

They lived along Atlantic Boulevard, near the bocce courts, and at the Nike missile site. They lived near the old commissary on Simonton Street. They lived in a few derelict houses about town. They lived in churchyards that were dark and relatively secure. They lived along the back streets of Stock Island. They lived along U.S. 1, near the firearms range. They lived in front of the Salvation Army building on Flagler Avenue. They lived on the beaches, in hidden away spots. They lived under buildings and behind air conditioners, out of sight and out of mind.

We attempted to address these problems and learned some important lessons as a result. We learned that some people were simply destined to live out their days going from place to place without ever being able or willing to change their circumstances or situations. Their will to make any progress had long since gone, no doubt in part to various addictions. (I was never sure if they were addicts because they were homeless, or homeless because they were addicts.) We learned that most were ill and all were suffering. It did not really matter why; the fact was that they were human beings in trouble and their predicaments had to be addressed. So we tried. We passed out toiletries and organized feedings, we bought medicine and bandages and all that sort of thing. Almost every church in Key West helped in some way, and when the churches simply could not, the pastors, rabbis and others did. Businesses helped. People with no religious affiliation helped. (I thank all of them for their effort and apologize for being 20 years late in doing so. We did lots of good. But we failed. We needed counseling skills that we did not have. We needed funds. We needed direction, coordination and professional management. We needed people with specialized skills and the expertise to help move people from helpless to hopeful. We needed people and programs that could help those begin the almost impossible task of rebuilding their lives.

Lest there be misunderstanding, there is another side to the homeless, houseless, at-risk population that we have a tendency to forget It has to do with language - homeless or houseless or at-risk does not mean unemployed. Many were working people. They worked in restaurants, did landscaping, worked for construction companies and did all sorts of odd jobs. Some of the women who had children had other women look after their children while they worked. Those were the days before various agencies such as the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition or Samuel's House or a number of other organizations came into existence.

We need the skill of Father Steve Braddock and the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition and Samuel's House. We need the Children's Shelter. We need all of the nonprofit helping agencies that are being threatened by current economic difficulties. We need to remember that for many, a few paychecks are all that stand between them and the streets.

Ron Paige is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Key West.

Gina Pecora Honored

Gina Pecora, FKOC Deputy Director, is Honored by FKOC CEO, Rev. Stephen Braddock, and FKOC staff on Administrative Professionals Day

FKOC 16th Annual Meeting

Samuel Kaufman, Esq., Chairmain of the Board, and Rev. Stephen Braddock, CEO and FKOC Executive Director host FKOC's 16th Annual Meeting.
To see more pictures, go to
"What's Happening at FKOC"

Navy Helps Out

Monroe County Human Service Organizations
CEO Forum

Father Steve Lobbies

FKOC and SHAL meets with National Policy Makers
on Capitol Hill


Chris Welts honored with Personal Achievement Award from SHAL


FKOC Honors Volunteer, Mark Hartley