McKinlay: Neighbors’ input valued on Glades homeless facilities

Melissa McKinlay

PALM BEACH COUNTY — County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said Monday she thinks the county’s strategy for integrating a non-congregate housing facility and homeless services center in Pahokee and Belle Glade, respectively, depends on informing and involving Glades residents from the get-go.

That’s why county officials persisted and conducted their town hall on June 18 despite a few previous cancellations.

“I felt it was successful,” said Commissioner McKinlay, who represents District 6, which includes the county’s westernmost cities of Belle Glade, Canal Point, Lake Harbor, Pahokee and South Bay. “Because of rising COVID rates, we cannot meet in person. We had well over 100 people on the call. Previous attempts to hold a workshop with the city were canceled by the city, so the county hosted the town hall,” she explained.

And she believes it had results; a few changes were made in response to feedback from neighbors and residents nearby the two facilities.

The “two major results” she cited are: “We are putting the ‘Glades residents only’ restrictions into our paperwork and contracts to make it binding”; and, “We developed a Neighborhood Advisory Group made up of local volunteers in Belle Glade and Pahokee (since we will have a facility in each) to coordinate community concerns. Involving the neighbors is key to success.

“The facilities will be open before the end of the year,” she stated.

“There were concerns about who would occupy these units and use services. Some of the anxiety was relieved when the public was told the facility will ONLY be used for Glades residents who need help,” McKinlay explained.

“Also, the COVID services are only for Glades residents. If someone has been exposed or tested positive and they cannot stay in their home while quarantined, these units are available for them for respite purposes,” she said.

The county will spend around $5 million to renovate the two buildings, located at 341 N.W. 11th St. in Belle Glade and 1749 E. Main St. in Pahokee, to make up the NCS Strategy for the western communities.

For people with questions about how the twin facilities will operate as long as the COVID-19 emergency lasts, how they will be used and operated as a Homeless Resource Center and Supportive Housing when the COVID-19 emergency is over, and what services will be provided, contact county staff of the Community Services and Facilities Development & Operations departments, who stand ready to answer your questions. You can reach Community Services by phone at 561-355-4772 or by email at WTippett@pbcgov.org. You can reach Facilities Development & Operations by phone at 561-233-0215 or by email at AWolf@pbcgov.org.

The June 18 town meeting was recorded and is available on the county’s website, discoverpbc.org.

Said McKinlay: “The transitional housing services are only for those seeking help. No one will be forced to come here. And the units for homeless purposes may be used for a maximum of two years. These are county owned and funded facilities.”

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