Second Heart Homes
Nick is from Sarasota. He spent part of his youth in foster homes before being adopted. In adoption he suffered abuse and neglect. He turned to the streets, where the symptoms of his schizophrenia intensified and he became homeless for almost 10 years. He resorted to the nonviolent, petty crimes that are often associated with homelessness. He was jailed, went to court and the cycle was repeated until he was given an opportunity to seek housing through the Comprehensive Treatment Court, a jail-diversion program for individuals struggling with mental illness. That’s when he gained a shot at a new life through Second Heart Homes, which houses, serves and loves people like him.
He has undergone a slow yet substantive change. He is a “House Duke” (house manager), ensuring the home is functional, safe, clean and welcoming. He also mentors other clients facing similar struggles. He remains sober, takes his medication as directed and is pursuing a general education diploma with the help of tutors from the Sarasota Ballet. Aided by a board member, he is voting in elections. He volunteers in the community and is learning carpentry skills from Bubba, our dedicated property manager. Nick is also becoming a spokesman for Second Heart Homes, which offers him a chance to tell his story of perseverance in the face of adversity. He uses poetry to describe his past and how it has shaped his journey.
Since Second Heart Homes endeavors to provide client- centric services, each person we house has a unique plan. For some the ultimate goal is independence; others, meanwhile, strive to function at the highest level possible, perhaps as longtime clients. Whatever the case, we work to help them achieve their best. Organizations that serve homeless people like Second Heart Homes help reduce the number of poor – and likely ill – people on sidewalks and in parks by giving them places to live and hope for better futures. We currently house 24 single men in four homes. Now, during Homeless Awareness Month, we are preparing to begin housing and serving 12 single women with mental health issues.
They will reside in two recently purchased properties, which was no small task in this real estate market. Donations helped us fund part of the purchases, but we continue to raise funds for capital and operating expenses. Grants from local foundations, churches and other charities have enabled us to maintain and expand our mission.
It’s important to note that no single entity can significantly reduce homelessness on its own and that our communities have made progress. Organizations that serve veterans, people with addictions and women and children with families perform amazing work; they, too, deserve support. What’s more, collaboration between agencies has improved dramatically.
Megan Howell is the Executive Director and Founder of Second Heart Homes. She holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology from Capella University and serves on the Leadership Council for the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness. For more infor visit: secondhearthomes.org