Annual homeless persons memorial service honors those we lost in 2020

Nancy Kennedy
Dec 21, 2020

Each Dec. 21, a day that’s often filled with holiday preparation, shopping and early celebrations, a handful of people gather to honor those who have died during the year while experiencing homelessness.

This year, the Salvation Army of Citrus County in Lecanto and Mid Florida Homeless Coalition hosted the memorial service for those who died in Citrus, Lake, Hernando and Sumter counties; the service was also on Facebook Live.

“Today we honor and remember the people who, for the most part, are unseen and who we generally forget and pass by on the street,” said Salvation Army Col. Dennis Strissel of Hernando County. “But for us at the Salvation Army, we know they’re part of our family … and each person we are memorializing today had a story.”

“Since 2017, we have been documenting those who have passed away either during homelessness or while in housing for the formerly homeless,” said Kristy Jocelyn, from Mid Florida Homeless Coalition. “But we know there are many more who are unaccounted for.”

Jocelyn read the names of people who died in 2020 from the four counties covered by Mid Florida, which includes Citrus County:

Veteran Joseph Ancell, Veteran John Bianchi, Ronald Copeland (Citrus), Veteran Thomas Dougherty (Citrus), Michael Gilkerson (Citrus), Patricia Huskey, Lastarza “Star” Johnnies (Citrus), Josephine Johnson, Freda Love, Steve McBride (Citrus), Maurice McCook, Veteran Ricky Minzer (Citrus), Veteran Anthony Nazzario, Gay Parsons, Joseph Smith and Lee Vangelder-Murtagh (Citrus).

“Just naming them is significant,” Strissel said. “Even these people who are generally overlooked … have value and worth, just like you and I do.”

Salvation Army Maj. Ken Fagan ended the brief, but poignant, service with a prayer and a charge:

“Holy God, in the midst of winter, in di”cult economic times, in this pandemic … we grieve for those who have died, who have experienced homelessness,” he said. “No one should live a third-world life in a first-world country.

“For those of us who remain, I pray that we will be your agents of love and change … may we work tirelessly for a new world where homelessness and poverty are ended.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.

Read more of Nancy’s stories at tinyurl.com/yxt69grh

NANCY KENNEDY Reporter

Citrus County Community Charitable Foundation Awards Mid Florida Homeless Coalition, Inc. Funds to Help Those Experiencing Homelessness

While those of us who are fortunate to have housing struggle to deal with the impacts of the pandemic, those experiencing homelessness have even more challenges. Mid Florida Homeless Coalition, Inc. has requested and been awarded funding to help meet some of the needs that have been identified by its staff. Hygiene kits that will provide hand sanitizer, mosquito repellant, and other items to protect and hopefully keep them well.

Mid Florida Homeless Coalition, Inc. (MFHC) and its partners assess the needs of those experiencing homelessness. Once the pandemic hit and the CDC provided a list of medical conditions that would make people more vulnerable, MFHC created a list of those who are literally homeless (not in shelter) and most vulnerable due to their medical conditions. Many do not have access to needed prescriptions or health related items. Imagine being diabetic, having COPD, immunocompromised state, and not being able to afford to get needed medications or supplies and living in the woods.

Based on these findings, we knew we needed to ask for funding for prescription and over-the-counter medications, first aid items and supplies. “Thanks to the generosity of this grant, we are excited to be able to address head-on some of the medical and basic survival needs of our participants who are most-vulnerable during this stressful, uncertain time.”

For more information on what you can do to help or to request a speaker, please contact Barbara Wheeler, Mid Florida Homeless Coalition at (352) 860-2308 or by e-mail at mfhc.information@gmail.com

1st Annual Recognition Breakfast

FL520 – Notice of Projects

Mid Florida Homeless Coalition, Inc., as the Collaborative Applicant for FL-520 – Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Sumter Counties CoC, would like to announce the projects that will be submitted with the FY2019 HUD CoC Grant Application.

There were not projects submitted that were either rejected or reduced.

SUMTER COUNTY HAS BEEN AWARDED FEDERAL FUNDS MADE AVAILABLE THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (DHS)/FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY UNDER THE EMERGENCY FOOD AND SHELTER NATIONAL BOARD PROGRAM (EFSP) PHASE 36

Sumter County has been awarded $37,005 to supplement Emergency Food and Shelter Programs in the county. The selection was made by a National Board that is chaired by the U. S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency and consists of representatives from American Red Cross; Catholic Charities, USA; National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; The Jewish Federations of North America, The Salvation Army; and, United Way Worldwide. The Local Board was charged to distribute these Federal funds appropriated by Congress to help expand the capacity of food and shelter programs in high-need areas around the country.

A Local Board made up of United Way of Lake & Sumter Counties, Mid Florida Community Services, Mid Florida Homeless Coalition, Inc., et al. will determine how the funds awarded to Sumter County are to be distributed among the emergency food and shelter programs run by local service agencies in the area. The Local Board is responsible for recommending agencies to receive these funds and any additional funds made available under this phase of the program.

Under the terms of the grant from the National Board; local agencies chosen to receive funds must:

1) have demonstrated the capability to deliver emergency food, shelter, or utility assistance programs

2)  be eligible to receive Federal funds

3)  be private voluntary non-profits or units of government  

4)  have an accounting system

5)  practice non-discrimination

6) if they are a private voluntary organization, they must have a voluntary board
7) applicants must be entering data into the Mid Florida Information Network system or willing to participate (Local Board recommendation)

Sumter County has distributed Emergency Food and Shelter funds previously with Hope Ministries. This agency was responsible for providing food assistance.

Applications are now available.
Agencies interested in applying for EFSP Phase 36 Program funds may:

  • Email a request to mfhc015@gmail.com
  • Find it on the midfloridahomeless.org website
  • Pick up an application at the Mid Florida Homeless Coalition office located at
    104 E. Dampier St., Inverness, FL, 34450 (Office hours are 8:00am-5:00pm Monday-Friday)
    Phone: 352-860-2308

Completed applications are to be submitted to Mid Florida Homeless Coalition via mail or drop-off. The deadline for application submission is September 13, 2019 by 5:00pm. Applications received at 5:00 p.m. will not be accepted.

At the July Governing Board and CoC meeting, we announced the time line for this year’s HUD CoC Competition. We sent out an email providing information, and referred you to our website to see a copy of the presentation and time line. 

Letters of Intent were due last Friday, but the Governing Board is allowing an extension of this deadline to this Friday, August 16, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. The letter is to be sent to Paula Holtsclaw at mfhc02@gmail.com. You will receive an email acknowledging receipt of your letter. 

8/23/2019 – Project application deadline – your application needs to be submitted in HUD’s e-snaps system along with the two documents that are found on our website at https://www.midfloridahomeless.org/library/. Once you have Submitted your application in e-snaps, please notify Paula Holtsclaw at mfhc02@gmail.com. You will receive an email acknowledging receipt of your email. The additional documents must be in our office by 5:00 p.m. on 8/23/2019.

If you need technical assistance, please call our office and speak to Paula Holtsclaw. We will schedule personal technical assistance, online assistance, or direct you to materials that will assist you. 

7.29.19 – TIMELINE

9/30/2019 – FY2019 CoC Program Competition Application DEADLINE
9/25/2019 – Post on website all parts of the Application (at least two days before submission)
9/13/2019 – Notify Project applicants of acceptance/ranking (at least 15 days prior to 9/30/2019)
8/29/2019 – Review, Score, Rank
8/23/2019 – Project application deadline (at least 30 days before 9/30/2019)
8/9/2019 – Letter of Intent

Recommendation for Update Governance Charter

A combined Governing Board and Continuum of Care Meeting of the FL-520 – Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Sumter Counties CoC was held on Friday, July 26, 2019. As a part of the annual review of the Governance Charter, it was recommended that a change be made to the following section by replacing the “up to thirteen (13) members” with “at least thirteen (13) members”.

  1. THE GOVERNING BOARD
  2. BOARD MEMBERSHIP AND ELECTION
  3. 2. There will be up to thirteen (13) members of public & private sectors vested in homelessness issues throughout the four (4) county area. The Governing Board will include the following:
  4. a) At least one (1) currently or formerly homeless person (in accordance to the current definition of homeless by HUD), and
  5. b) At least one (1) ESG-funded agency representative;

This change will allow the Governing Board to expand to meet the needs of the CoC.

A vote on this on this change to the Charter will take place at the meeting of August 23, 2019. It is a Governing Board and CoC Meeting, and it is open to the public.

Florida Housing Coaltion in conjunction with Mid Florida Homeless Coalition will be providing Permanent Supportive Housing Training on June 7, 2019 from 9:00 AM to 4 PM. There is no charge for the training and it will be held at the Florida Department of Health in Sumter County, 415 E Noble Ave., Bushnell, FL. RSVP to mfhc05@gmail.com

At this week’s Lake County Board of County Commissioner meeting, the Commissioners Proclaimed November 10 – 18, 2018 as Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

Commissioner Wendy Breeden presents the Proclamation to Mid Florida Homeless Coalition and its Lake County partners.

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is an annual program where people come together across the country to draw attention to the problems of hunger and homelessness. Participating groups spend the week holding a series of educational, service, fundraising, and advocacy events.

Volunteer. Donate. Educate.

Everyone can do something to address the needs of people who are hungry or homeless. Be a part of the solution. Call Mid Florida Homeless Coalition or any not-for-profit near you to get more information on how you can get involved.