Opening Doors on a Mission to Reach, Respond, Restore
Opening Doors Northwest Florida, Inc. dba EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless, Inc.
In 1987, the Escambia Coalition on the Homeless was formed to promote and coordinate community efforts to reduce homelessness as well as to establish an alliance of organizations and individuals interested in assuring the availability of shelter, healthcare, and related services for the homeless in Escambia County. In March 2000, the organization expanded its outreach and services to include Santa Rosa County and changed its name to the EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless (ECOH). In April 2018, ECOH launched a major rebrand initiative to reintroduce the agency as Opening Doors Northwest Florida, Inc (Opening Doors). The new name represents the organization's new, centralized multi-organization system called "Coordinated Entry" that is changing the way homelessness is addressed in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. Opening Doors serves as the lead agency for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Florida Department of Children and
Families' Office on Homelessness for both counties. As such, it is the designated entity for local planning efforts to create a homeless assistance continuum of care system.
Of the 632 unsheltered individuals who were assessed during the annual homeless count (Point in Time 2017- 2018) conducted in January, 2018, there were 514 disabled, 103 veterans, 154 lived in a place not meant for human habitation, 17 domestic violence victims, 444 males, 188 females, 337 Caucasian, 213 African American, 68 multiple races and 79 who had been chronically homeless (more than 12 months). This project will enable Opening Doors to reach and provide field-based outreach and engagement services to unserved/underserved individuals who are homeless, severely disabled, mentally ill, residing in uninhabitable living conditions and the “hidden” homeless that otherwise would not come to the office. The purchase of a mobile office outreach van will allow Opening Doors’ office to reach rural areas where homeless clients live but do not have transportation. Grant money will be used to purchase a 2018 Ford Transit LWB Extended Cab custom built as a mobile outreach office equipped with the same service elements found at the office, extending the reach to those in remote locations and desperate situations. A Verizon Smarthub as a mobile high-speed internet connection will allow case managers and partnered clinical staff to use laptop computers to access and refer clients to resources. Custom designed shirts for the project along with a logo wrap for the van will be purchased to expand community awareness of the program.
The expected impact for the targeted population will be to reduce street homelessness by 15%. Service delivery response times will be reduced. A primary health care home will be established for 80% of the homeless with which the organization connects through the mobile office van. Law enforcement response for minor offenses such as ‘trespassing’ will be mitigated, allowing the use of officer time to be focused on more urgent crises. Expected impact includes fewer costs to hospitals (Emergency Rooms and Psychiatric admissions), reduced wait times at ERs, faster police response times, cleaner streets, fewer arrests, less impact to public safety, and significantly reduced overall costs to our community. Opening Doors expects to reach 20% more unserved/underserved individuals and families, to respond to the needs of this unengaged population, to enable access to services with the use of the community database system that cannot be accessed without encrypted internet access, and to make their brand bring awareness and restore the community’s confidence that homelessness is being addressed.