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Camillus House is a non-profit agency that provides humanitarian services to poor and homeless men, women and children in Miami-Dade County in southern Florida. Founded in 1960, Camillus House is one of the oldest and largest continuously operated charities in South Florida. Brother Mathias Barrett, founder of the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, founded Camillus House which continues to be sponsored by the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd under the guidance of a lay president, board of directors, and staff.
Camillus House provides a variety of services including direct care for homeless individuals, treatment programs and job training for individuals with substance abuse and mental health issues, emergency, transitional, and permanent housing for individuals and families, and healthcare for the homeless and uninsured.
Following the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, the mission of Camillus House is to provide Christian hospitality and respect for life through direct services of food, clothing, shelter, addiction counseling, behavioral health and job training, and health care to the poor and homeless of South Florida. Every service offered at Camillus is carried out with the belief that every human being is precious in the eyes of God and deserves love, respect, and a chance to live a dignified life.
The stated goal of Camillus House is the elimination of chronic homelessness in Miami through a comprehensive treatment program carried out in a life affirming environment, giving chronically homeless individuals the strength, courage and tools necessary to rebuild their lives.
Camillus House was founded by Brother Mathais Barrett who arrived in Miami in the summer of 1960 with nothing more than a cardboard suitcase. Brother Mathais had been helping the poor and disadvantaged in other cities for more than forty years. He was asked to come to Miami by Archdiocese of Miami Bishop Coleman Carroll to help serve a large influx of refugees from Cuba who were arriving in Miami with little more than the clothes on their backs. Brother Mathias agreed to help on the condition that his ministry would serve all who needed help, regardless of race, creed, color, or religion.
So in the summer of 1960 brother Mathias began his ministry serving a bowl of donated cornflakes to a hungry elderly, man. Brother Mathias would name his ministry Camillus House after St. Camillus de Lellis, an Italian monk and Patron Saint of Nursing, who devoted his life to the care of the poor and the sick and founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Sick and Poor.
By 1966 Camillus House had served its one-millionth meal. In 1970 Camillus House expanded to temporary housing with a 40-bed dormitory. In 1984, with the help of Dr. Pedro Jose Greer Jr., Camillus House founded Camillus Health Concern and began to provide healthcare to the poor and homeless. Also in 1984 Brother Harry Somerville began Camillus’ first substance abuse and treatment program that would eventually become the Camillus House Institute for Social and Personal Advancement (CH-ISPA.) Camillus House would continue to acquire housing to serve the needs of the community, including transforming a former crack cocaine den into the first Camillus House transitional Housing facility.
Hospitality services is the oldest and most well known of the services offered at Camillus House. Its primary purpose is to ensure that each client’s basic human needs for food, clothing, and overnight shelter are met. Since people who are hungry, or cold, or sleeping on the street cannot begin to address the larger issues that prevent them from leading a fulfilling life, Hospitality Services focuses on providing the immediate care they need.
Hospitality encompasses two primary program areas. The first is the continuation of the original Camillus House mission, the meal program. The meal program at Camillus House offers free, nutritious meals to the hungry of Miami-Dade County. Six days a week, any hungry individual is welcome to a hot, complete meal. No questions are asked and no limits are put on who can eat. An average of 1,100 meals are served during this evening meal. The meal program also provides meals for clients of other Camillus House program areas, including three meals per day for the clients of the ISPA treatment program and breakfast for clients who have stayed in the emergency overnight dormitory shelter.
The second hospitality program is the Camillus House Direct Care Ministry, which includes overnight shelter, showers, clothing exchange, mail services, telephone usage, public restrooms, identification cards, basic referrals and information, a day program with activities to engage people who would otherwise be looking to pass their time on the streets.
Treatment and job training
Camillus House is active in addressing not just the symptoms of homeless but the causes as well. The Camillus House Institute for Personal and Social Adjustment (ISPA), is a comprehensive program designed to treat mental illness and substance abuse as co-occurring disorders that are often to root causes of chronic homelessness. The ISPA program provides residential and outpatient treatment that include components for family therapy, wellness, relapse prevention, and co-occurring addictions. Counselors and social workers are assigned to each ISPA client to determine a treatment outline customized to each individual. A psychiatrist provides psychiatry services and monitor medications. ISPA clients also benefit from a Camillus House partnership with Jackson Memorial Hospital that ensures that clients are able to obtain all of their medications for free. Along with treatment the Camillus House ISPA program includes a job training program so when individuals come out of treatment they are ready to for employment not only benefiting from the financial stability of a job but from the dignity and self-respect that comes with having a job. The program provides individuals with the opportunity to achieve their educational, vocational, and employment goals through industry-specific career tracks. Camillus House offers an educational Program in partnership with the Miami Dade Public School System for individuals who are interested in obtaining their GED. Camillus House provides vocational training designed to provide individuals with specific trade skills that they can transfer into paying jobs in the community. Camillus House has partnered with several local businesses that have agreed to provide training assistance and certification for individuals in our program. Training tracks include: Warehouse, Housekeeping/General Maintenance, Food Services, Concierge/Guest Services. Camillus House also provides persons who are homeless and formerly homeless with assistance pertaining to job search and placement. Camillus House conducts meetings open to everyone to introduce the fundamental needs of job readiness and will focus with individuals skill boosting, including resume preparation, interviewing skills, job search skills, and appropriate work conduct. Once the goal of employment is reached, Camillus House will continue to work with the individual on an as-needed basis.
Camillus Housing Services addresses the most obvious aspect of homelessness—it provides individuals and families with a place to live. A range of housing options include Emergency, Transitional, and Permanent housing, depending upon the stage each client is in during their recovery from homelessness.
Emergency Housing is temporary housing provided for a period of 1–90 days, depending upon the program and the needs of the client. This type of housing provides homeless persons with an immediate place to get off the streets, and also serves as an entry point into Camillus House services. In temporary housing, an individuals needs are assessed, including the need for substance abuse treatment, mental health services, employment assistance, and other help. Depending upon the individual needs and motivation of the client, he/she may then be placed into a transitional housing or treatment program.
Transitional housing is generally provided for a period of 6–18 months, during which time residents are able to gain some stability in their lives. Individuals and families receive a great deal of support while they adjust to living off the streets and learn to live independently. Residents must hold a job and pay monthly program fees. Special emphasis is placed on teaching clients how to manage a personal budget. One third of a residents income is utilized for monthly program fees; one third is theirs to spend on bills and personal items; and one third is saved in a bank account for use when they leave the program. Once ready, clients transition into permanent housing. Camillus House provides transitional housing through multiple facilities located throughout Miami-Dade County.
Permanent housing offers a supported living environment to formerly homeless persons who have transitioned out of transitional housing, but still require some sort of support in order to maintain their stability. Although called “permanent housing”, most residents eventually move out into unsupported housing after they have increased their income and become more comfortable with their independence, sometimes after several years. As with Camillus' transitional housing programs, residents contribute 30% of their income towards program fees and must participate in the programs' supportive services.
All housing programs are linked to Camillus' other programs so that clients receive the comprehensive health care and social services they require during their participation in the program. On an average night roughly 800 men, women, and children of South Florida will spend the night under a Camillus House roof.
Camillus Health Concern, Inc.
Spun off from Camillus House in 1984 because of the dire need for healthcare in the homeless community, Camillus Health Concern, Inc. (CHC) is sponsored by the Brothers of the Good Shepherd and has been a leader in providing primary health care services to the homeless and low-income populations of Miami-Dade County. CHC has been a Health Care for the Homeless grantee through the Department of Health and Human Services' Bureau of Primary Health Care since 1989 and was designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center in 1996. CHC services are provided at 336 NW 5th Street in downtown Miami. Opened in June 1998, the state-of-the art health center offers homeless persons the opportunity to receive quality care in a comfortable, professional setting. Primary Medical Services offer by Camillus Health Concern include preventive care, episodic care for acute illness, chronic disease management, specialty and surgical referrals, pediatric health services, HIV/AIDS services, women's preventive health services as well as medical outreach services. Camillus Health Concerns also provides sub-specialty Services (including dermatology and physical therapy), oral health services, podiatry services, mental health services.
CHC's health care providers are specially trained in meeting the unique health care and social service needs of homeless persons. A tri-lingual staff is able to provide services in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole and all materials, including posted signs, educational brochures, and health care forms, are printed in the three languages.
Institute for Homeless Studies
In 2005 Camillus House founded The Institute for Homeless Studies (IHS), an academic and research center focused on expanding the knowledge-base surrounding homeless issues, and improving the capacity and effectiveness of individuals, organizations, and systems serving persons experiencing homelessness. IHS focuses on four areas of programming: training and education; media and publications; research and evaluation; and customized consultation services.
IHS draws upon Camillus’ House near half century of experience working in the homeless field, bringing together resources and expertise towards a goal of ending homelessness. Camillus has established IHS to serve as a resource and clearinghouse of information for anyone serving persons experiencing homelessness.
Capital campaign and new headquarters
In 2006, after a 20-year search for a location for new facility, Camillus House was able to negotiate with the City of Miami, the University of Miami, and community leaders to move the Camillus House direct care service center from its original location on 1st Avenue in downtown Miami to a brand new facility on NW 7th Avenue between NW 15th and 17th Streets. The new facility, which will include an expanded 340-bed overnight shelter as well as treatment and job training facilities, will provide Camillus House space needed to expand services to the greater Miami community.
In order to pay for the new facility, Camillus House has begun an $88 million capital campaign called “Open the Doors to Hope.” The campaign officially kicked off in March 2007 with a $1 million donation to Camillus House from the Bank of America charitable foundation.