As of Jan. 1, the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless (FKOC) is operating as a subsidiary of AH Monroe in what leaders from both organizations call an “integration of services and expansion of missions.”

Both organizations have been working with a facilitator for 18 months on how to proceed as one organization.

The “why” was simpler, said Samuel Kaufman, who chairs the FKOC board and is also a Key West city commissioner.

“FKOC needed to plan for the future by strengthening the organization’s sustainability, not only to maintain its mission, but also to expand that mission to create a pathway from homeless to permanently housed. This will directly reduce administrative expenses and allow staff resources to increase our affordable housing, health, food pantry and homeless programs. We look forward to many more successes in the future with this great team.”

Since its incorporation as a nonprofit in 1992, FKOC has provided homeless prevention and shelter throughout Monroe County. When homelessness has already occurred, FKOC offers effective multistage housing programs.

AH board president Rebecca Balcer said the joining of the two organizations makes sense on many levels and “the ‘why’ was easy — now we have in place the ‘how.’”

“AH has become a more active affordable housing developer and housing advocate, such as with the Lofts at Bahama Village,” Balcer said. “In addressing the extreme housing shortage in Key West, why wouldn’t we also provide stewardship to the risks of homelessness? It was an easy decision for the AH board.”

Scott Pridgen, AH executive director, said the two agencies “have worked together for years referring clients for services. Also, the two are involved in a redevelopment plan for Poinciana’s Special-Needs Housing, where FKOC and other nonprofits provide homeless housing services. What seemed like a courtship for many years made sense that we marry the two organizations. 

“Housing is health care,” he added. “AH’s mission of Health + Housing is uniquely aligned with FKOC’s mission.”

Since its inception, the AH mission has been caring for people living with HIV, as well as prevention of HIV through health and housing initiatives.

“We cannot address health or homelessness without housing,” Pridgen said. 

“With AH, FKOC will not only be able to continue to be solution-oriented to encourage self-sufficiency, stability and opportunity, but also build housing for it,” Kaufman added.

“From homelessness to home ownership, we can provide both to address the health of our community,” Pridgen said.

More on the mission of FKOC can be found at fkoc.org and on social media at facebook.com/FloridaKeysOutreachCoalition.Details about the dual goals of AH are at AHHealth.org and AHHousing.org.