407-823-3094 LiveUnited@ucf.edu

October 2015 By Anita Gabbard

One of the ways we can learn about how our donations impact people in our community is to take a tour of one of the agencies. The Coalition for the Homeless offers free lunch tours on the second Tuesday of every month called More than a Meal. The event includes the opportunity to hear from Coalition staff and executives and take a walking tour of the campus. To sign up for an upcoming tour, visit the More than a Meal registration site: http://www.centralfloridahomeless.org/events/tours.cfm

Several members of the UCF United Way campaign advocate team participated in the October More than a Meal lunch and learn tour at the Coalition for the Homeless. I was so impressed with the facilities, the services, and the variety of ways they reach out to others that I wanted to share their story with our UCF community.

As we were eating, Tracie Morris, Director of Development, gave us an overview of the Coalition. At first, I was confused when she kept referring to the location as a “campus” until we went on the tour. Campus is defined as a large area of buildings and grounds that facilitates learning and the Coalition fits that description.

The campus provides food and shelter, education and job skills training, a licensed day care, child development, and housing placement. It is one of the few agencies that allows families to stay intact. They can house more than 600 people on any given night. The Coalition’s fact sheet says they are more than a shelter and it is so true. Providing shelter for residents is just a small part of who they are and what they do.

Coalition services and programs include educational/learning labs for children; onsite Boys and Girls Club; Art by Coalition Children program; Early Childhood Development Center; Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten; LifeStrides Adult Education Program; parenting classes; community housing; 24-hour Crisis Hotline; and a Substance Abuse Recovery Program.

The Coalition plays an important role in education as evident by a success story told to us during the tour that has close ties to UCF. A young lady who had been on the streets for 10 years came to the campus after finding out she was pregnant. She was encouraged to work with the Adult Education Center, located on the property, where she earned her GED. She moved on to Valencia and through Direct Connect she came to UCF where she earned her bachelor degree.

In addition to providing meals for the residents, they also open their doors to the community serving approximately 75 additional families nightly. The kitchen and cafeteria facility is newly renovated allowing them to reach more families in need. Last year, the Coalition served nearly 300,000 meals.

During the tour, I couldn’t help but be fascinated with the well maintained landscape and facilities. Someone asked about their paid custodial staff and we were told that the residents are responsible for the cleanliness and upkeep of the campus. It was evident they took great pride in their surroundings.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the Coalition for the Homeless and encourage everyone to think how you can help. You can volunteer, provide needed supplies and designate your United Way pledges to go to organizations like this that help to alleviate hunger and homelessness and build healthy children and families.

October is the Live United month at UCF. You can make a difference and change does start here. Begin right here and pledge at http://liveunited.ucf.edu/Give.