About Us

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Who We Are

Who We Are

A small group of people began meeting to talk about the needs of the homeless in the rural communities where they resided. The decision was made to start a coalition that would encompass four rural communities that with a combined population would allow them to competitive in applying for federal homeless dollars. The Coalition was established in 2000, incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) in 2001. The original Officers were James Lowe of Lake Community Action Agency of Eustis, Jamie Dodd of Leesburg, Tommy Blackmon of Inverness, and Valerie Seaton of Eustis.

The Coalition has evolved into the lead agency as determined by the State of Florida and the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (FL520-Citrus, Hernando, Lake and Sumter). Under the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act passed in 2009, an entire community rather than individual service providers must demonstrate success in preventing and reducing homelessness.

Accordingly, the Coalition is the lead agency coordinating Citrus, Hernando, Lake and Sumter’s response to homelessness, and as such serves as the primary support organization for the community‚Äôs Continuum of Care (CoC) . The CoC system creates an improved homeless service system that more effectively provides services, support and housing to all sub-populations within Citrus, Hernando, Lake and Sumter’s homeless community, with a primary focus on moving individuals and families out of homelessness. The ultimate goal of the CoC is the creation of a homeless service system that achieves reduction in new instances of, length of, and returns to homelessness and meets the varying needs of homeless sub-populations such as unaccompanied youth, veterans and families with children.

Board Members

MFHC Board Executive Committee

The Coalition is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors under the leadership of an elected Chair.

  • Shannon Sokolowski – Board President Dawn Center
  • Gloria Boone – Vice President Lake Community Action Agency
  • Sandy Stokes III – Secretary / Treasurer Sandy Stokes CPA
  • B.E. Thompson – Immediate Past-President LifeStream Behavioral Center, Inc.
  • Maureen Wilson
  • Veda Ramirez
  • Mark Compston
  • Renee M. Bunn
  • Kim Ducharme Levensohn
  • Timothy McCormack
  • Jared Tanner

CoC Governing Board Members

CoC Governing Board Members

  • Robert Morin, Chair
  • Melissa Simmes, Vice Chair
  • Veda Ramirez
  • Dr. Alan Holden
  • Jessica Peters
  • Steve Smith
  • Stephen Teaster, Esq.
  • Barbara Venditto
  • Sheri Goodwin
  • Cara Meeks
  • Paula Anspach

Database Oversight

Database Oversight

HUD was directed by Congress to work with jurisdictions to gather homeless data by 2004 for organizations that were receiving HUD homeless funding. The data was to be collected via a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). As the lead organization, Mid Florida Homeless Coalition applied for and was awarded its first HUD homeless grants in 2005. Two of the three projects funded were permanent supportive housing projects (one awarded to Citrus County Housing Services and one to LifeStream Behavioral Center, Inc.) that were required to enter data into an HMIS. The third funded project was a HMIS grant.

The implementation of this community database, which we call Mid Florida Information Network, began in 2007. Since that time, we have developed relationships with every organization that houses persons who are homeless or that are receiving HUD homeless dollars, and we currently have 100% participation by these organizations. This includes organizations receiving funds that require their participation as well as those who are not required to participate.

In addition to the facility providers (Emergency Shelters, Transitional Housing, and Permanent Supportive Housing), we work with a number of organizations that provide preventive services; e.g., financial, food, case management, etc., and those providing services to the homeless not in facilities; e.g., tents, showers, food, etc. Data is collected on those who are homeless and at-risk of homelessness in order to determine the number of persons that are receiving assistance throughout a year throughout our Continuum of Care (CoC) (FL520-Citrus, Hernando, Lake and Sumter). Annually, we count the number of persons who arehomeless throughout the CoC, and we survey as many of them as we can. Survey information is entered into the system, and data for both a State report and a Federal report are generated from the system.

For those operating homeless facilities, the system is much like a hotel system. One person has to be checked out of a bed before another person can be placed in that bed. This allows the system to calculate the length of stay for each person at each location. Demographic data is collected and entered into this internet based database. Annually, we submit data to HUD on the number of individuals, families, and unaccompanied youth who have been served. This comprehensive report also provides a myriad of compiled data such as; number of each sex, number of veterans, number by ethnicity, race, disabling condition, as well as the number of days of stay by populations (unaccompanied versus families).

The system provides one point of entry qualifying at-risk and homeless individuals and families for services, alleviating the necessity of qualifying this clientele for eligibility over and over again; thus it can make it easier for clients to access services. The system provides the means for organizations to share information thus allowing them to better understand the need of the clients and to work with other organizations to meet those needs. In addition to basic demographic data, the system has the ability to track income, health, education data as well as services being provided; e.g., amount of rental assistance provided, pounds of food given, etc.

The initial grant from HUD was $78,143, which has been renewed annually since 2005. As a requirement of this grant, the Coalition must provide a 25% cash match ($19,536) annually. We have obtained these sources of funds through various organizations throughout the years. In the past we were awarded dollars from some of the County governments, private donations, a foundation, United Way and State grants.