While the mission to end homelessness here in Miami seems like that of a lofty task, the Fundación Hermanos de la Calle (Brothers of the Street Foundation) has their eyes and hearts set on it.
The organizers of Fundación Hermanos de la Calle, Humberto Ramirez and Narciso Munuoz, have saved more than 125 lives here in Miami and are on the mission to give many others their second chance at life.
“We go to the streets and we help people from the streets,” stated Humberto Ramirez.
The group of volunteers meets every Friday in Key Biscayne to then receive the blessing to go out and share happiness with those on the streets and to offer them conversation and find ways to give them help.
“We are each blessed and because of that, we must give back to the community by giving our time and talents to help better the community and those that reside in it,” said Narciso Munuoz.
While the group of volunteers will deliver warm meals, clothes, and blankets to those in need, the real goal is to deliver hope. Through simple conversation, they are able to find out why the individual is living on the street and then can offer the help they need.
“Very few that are homeless want to be homeless,” stated Narciso.
Humberto and Narciso will head out at times on their own to encourage those living on the streets to accept the help they offer. Sometimes the person doesn’t want to be helped at first, but the duo will continue to check back in until they are ready to accept.
Fundación Hermanos de la Calle will then take steps to run a basic background check and administer a drug test. If the individual is clean, they get them into housing and if they are not clean, they offer them to go to a rehab center.
“Once they accept our help, we make the arrangements to send them to rehab, put them in our housing, connect them back to family, set them up with a caseworker, help them get jobs,” said Narciso. “We find ways to help them restore their dignity and reintegrate them back into society.”
Fundación Hermanos de la Calle manages a set of homes and apartments where the once homeless can live like a family. Currently, more than 50 individuals reside in their housing.
“Affordable housing is critical and here in Miami it doesn’t exist,” said Narciso. “The basic efficiency starts out at $700 a month, well outside the budget of one living on the street. And if you are homeless, and can’t provide identification or an address, you won’t be considered to rent.”
The organization places the individuals into a home where they can be surrounded by others that are fighting the same fight like them. It is important for them to live together and outside of hotels or shelters that do not aid in their recovery and lead back to loneliness. Instead, it takes the right environment that supports their second chance and a place where they can hold each other accountable and have others they can depend on.
“It is our mission to help as many people as we can get off the streets, stay off the streets and to break the stigma,” said Humberto.
The stigma that the duo refers to is that in which surrounds homelessness and inhibits those that are homeless from reaching out to family and friends for help. Humberto and Narciso have encountered many stories of family that had no idea their family member was homeless or even alive.
“We had a father that was supporting his son through college and living on the street,” explained Narciso. “He had to make the choice to either pay for his son’s school or pay for housing. His son and family didn’t even know he was homeless,” explained Narciso.
Humberto told another story of a mother’s son that ran away due to drug use and for four years the mother thought he was dead. Too afraid to ask for help, he lived on the streets and after years, it was Fundación Hermanos de la Calle that connected with the mother to let her know they had found her son.
Humberto and Narciso’s dream is that they can inspire a ‘love revolution’ and encourage a force of others to be inspired to go out and simply start a conversation with those that are homeless, find out why they are living on the streets and offer help.
“I believe all it takes to solve homelessness is more helpers, and more houses and beds ready, to then be able to go out and say, brother or sister, you don’t need to sleep here on the street tonight.”