FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – On any given night more than 800 people sleep on the streets of Broward County, more than half of them in neighborhoods bordering downtown Ft. Lauderdale, according to the Salvation Army of Broward County.

While some take advantage of the shelters throughout the county, others are forced to sleep on the streets due to drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness or because they don’t trust “the system.”

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To address the latter situation, Broward’s Salvation Army has debuted a new facility designed to offer overnight shelter to chronically homeless individuals who are not eligible for acceptance into traditional shelters.

“They do not have to be alcohol or drug free.  We feel if we have them enter the program they will have a thirst for more services,” says Bruce Hecker who is on the Salvation Army Board.

“We’re gonna find those who say I don’t want services.  They are not ready.  That’s okay, we won’t force services on anybody,” added Social Services Director Lily Gannardo.

Click here to watch Joan Murray’s report. 

The Open Door Project, according to Area Commander Captain Luis Viera in a statement, will benefit the community at large by giving homeless individuals previously thought to be hopeless a warm place to stay and an opportunity to move forward.

The Open Door Project, located on the Salvation Army campus at 1445 West Broward Boulevard, will include beds for up to 45 adult men and women and breakfast. If families with children seek shelter, they will be housed in separate facilities.

Homeless people who want to spend the night won’t be required to give any information but a name. They will be admitted on a first come, first served basis each evening. Individuals may stay a maximum of 15 nights per month in the shelter, as space permits.

The Open Door program will admit homeless men and women who may be intoxicated, as long as they are not disruptive. A security guard will be on duty each night.

In the short-term, the Salvation Army said the shelter will simply provide a safe place to sleep and a meal. In the long-term, they say if repeat clients begin to develop trust in the Salvation Army and our staff, they will take part in more in-depth services, such as transitional shelter, case management and life skills, and may be eligible for re-housing, which will allow them to move to an apartment.

CBS 4 spoke to several homeless people who said they may try the new shelter.

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Rudolph Sirius who says he’s been homeless ten years was glad to hear food is provided.

Sirius says he became homeless when he lost his job.  “I couldn’t afford my house, my trailer anymore.  I tried working for my landlady but she didn’t have enough work for me.”

Sirius says he has found a safe undisclosed location where he sleeps every night in Ft. Lauderdale.

Another homeless man who spends time trying to help others in his situation, says the Salvation Army approach is a step in the right direction.

“It’s so small, but I understand it’s new.  Maybe in the future they can expand,” says Manfred Zaepernick.

In fact, the Salvation Army says expansion is part of the plan.  They hope other homeless advocacy groups will start to offer an open door policy.

Approximately half of homeless people in Broward county are in the downtown Ft. Lauderdale area and the central corridor leading to downtown.

By providing services in the area near I-95 it’s hoped the homeless will take advantage of the shelter.  In addition to taking people off the streets, it’s believed the shelter will cut down on the number of minor arrests police are often forced to make and reduce public nuisance calls.



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