Lewis Center eyed as model for temporary homeless shelter going at old jail

Article Courtesy of  Channel 12 News WPEC

By Stefany Valderrama

Published March 4, 2020



WEST PALM BEACH — Palm Beach County commissioners are hoping to use the Senator Philip D. Lewis Center as a model for the temporary homeless shelter.

Kat Hammer oversees the Lewis Center in West Palm Beach.

"I think the oldest person we've had was 91 and the youngest is 18," she told CBS12 News.

Last week, county commissioners approved turning the former detention center, near the state fairgrounds, into a temporary homeless shelter.

On Friday, more than half a dozen people including county commissioners, their community partners and leaders of several homeowner associations, near the old jail, toured the Lewis Center. The hope is to make those on the fence about the decision to feel more at ease.


Dan Galasso, who's on the board of his HOA, says he wasn't invited.

"If they mentioned that they went to local HOA's, I would think we would be one of them," he said. "But I have not heard anything about that whatsoever."

Galasso, like many homeowners, just wants the county to clarify their plan to use the old jail as a temporary homeless shelter.

"The more I know, the better, but as of now I don't know much," Galasso told CBS12 News.

On Monday, CBS12 News toured the facility, since county commissioners want to model the 125-unit temporary shelter after it.

"Beds are based on acuity and that means we have to triage who is the highest person in need," Hammer said. "Who is the person that is the most vulnerable? That's our aim and then we put them in the shelter."

On average, most people stay at the Lewis Center for 45 days.

The center focuses on getting homeless individuals and families to become self-sufficient.

"Everyone who comes in is assigned a case manager. We determine what barriers there are. Things like a license, social security [and] we work on that. We connect people to employment," Hammer said.

Hammer says more than half of the people served at the Lewis Center break the cycle of homelessness.

After the tour last week, Hammer says most people left with a better sense of what the county is hoping to accomplish. She says her staff will act as consultants for the county to help them make the jail more friendly for the homeless people who will live there.