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Since its inception in 2002, Homeward Bound has sent more than 800 homeless to relatives' homes, said Lela Jordan, director of Vickers House.
But the program, like many other social service projects in Palm Beach County, faces shrinking funds while seeing an increase in people asking for help. Jordan says she hopes community donations will help keep Homeward Bound running. "When it first started, it wasn't something that people were coming for daily," Jordan said. "We might have gotten one person a month. But in the last year, we've seen more and more people coming in because they've tried everything they can here and it's just not working out, and they are ready to go home." Jordan said she launched the program in 2002, after several of the center's clients requested money for bus passes to return home to their families. "Sometimes folks came and thought they were going to get a fabulous job doing construction, live on the beach in the sunshine," Jordan said. "They came down and found it was hard to get around, that they couldn't get that dream job, that is was a very expensive place to live." The program helps three to five families per week. An average bus ticket runs from $125 to $200, depending on the destination, and since the program only has about $3,000 left, money will run out soon. "I know that times are tough and every agency out there is trying to fundraise," said Jordan, who's hoping to raise $20,000.
"It's the biggest problem we have - it's the biggest problem we've always had, getting someone an ID," says Lela Jordan, director of the Vickers House in West Palm Beach, where homeless come for help.The effort could help those who are arrested for trespassing or public drunkenness, but it doesn't eliminate the problem, Jordan said.That last has proven helpful to Jordan at the Vickers House.She said she was able to send a Navy veteran to the VA hospital to get an ID. Another man didn't have the actual ID, but had photocopies."That gave us something to work with," Jordan said.Many homeless folks don't stick around the weeks or months it takes to break through the bureaucracy, Jordan said.She has a pile of certificates for people who have wandered off.You need the mother's maiden name, you need to know what county you were born in, what city you were born in," Jordan said.
Guests: . Lela Jordon is the Community Services Coordinator at the Vickers House. a community one-stop resource center created by City of West Palm Beach.addressing the needs of persons in transition.Jordan says its a difficult task nationwide in 1999, she completed the renovation of the 1939 Vickers with the help of the community's hard working volunteers.
For seven years now, Lela Jordan has been the City of West Palm Beach's community resources coordinator.Most of the time, that means her job is to find places to stay for the homeless people who wander into her office on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard.That's a next-to-impossible task in Palm Beach County, which has only 79 emergency shelter beds for an estimated 3,900 people living on the streets.Earlier this year, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty even called Palm Beach County one of the five worst places in the country to be homeless. Jordan came up with a simple solution in January 2002.At the time, a homeless mother with two babies sat in her office."She had nowhere to go," recalls Jordan, an intense woman with red spiky hair."So I asked if she wanted to go back home.We found someone who would take her in, and we had her on a bus that day."It worked so well, Jordan started doing it with many of the homeless people who came into her office.She dubbed the bus ticket program Homeward Bound and started soliciting donations from businesses.She gives free tickets only if the would-be recipient isn't wanted by the cops and only if there's someone at the other end of the line willing to take them in. By September of this year, Jordan had spent $13,000 of mainly donated money to buy tickets for 112 adults and 29 children.They've gone as far as Edmonton, Canada, and as close as Fort Myers.Often, they go back to live with parents who have long ago written them off."They clearly have a better chance," Jordan says, "if we can get them back with family that will care for them." Without realizing it at the time, Jordan and her program had become part of a nationwide movement to gently -- or heartlessly, critics say -- transport a messy local social problem to other, preferably distant localities.
Lela Jordan, Coordinator