HEALing Together

Transformation is at the heart of Gulf Coast Community Foundation (Gulf Coast). Together with our donors, we transform our region through bold and proactive philanthropy. Working with local nonprofit partners, we strive to positively transform lives in our region.  

Gulf Coast’s Project HEAL: Helping Everyone Align with Love, is funded by a generous donor and is a part of the Adult Homelessness Initiative, which strives to end the suffering caused by a lack of stable housing. Project HEAL is bringing the principles of safety, collaboration, empowerment, transparency, and trustworthiness to life within the human services sector. For over a year, local nonprofits have been planning and executing strategies to address the root causes of homelessness, a devastating situation for every individual and family experiencing it.   

Homeless services providers assist individuals at a time when they are feeling extremely vulnerable. Through Gulf Coast’s Project HEAL, four organizations have created Trauma Informed Action Plans and focused on healing the wounds that can lead to homelessness.  

Creating a safe environment is the first step in assisting individuals in crisis to heal. At Harvest House, night-time security guards, fencing, and enhanced lighting have been implemented across their 10 campuses. Also, staff have participated in leadership training. 

Six women, including small girl, stand holding "You Matter" type of uplifting signs.
Harvest House joins NAMIWalks to support mental healthcare.

Next, building trusting relationships helps families gain stability. Family Promise of South Sarasota County has updated training materials for all staff and volunteers to include trauma-informed principles. They shared, “In one family, we watched the weight of the world lift off the mother’s shoulders simply by making special arrangements to be more accommodating and understanding of her situation. Having full transparency with the client has allowed her to focus on her case plan and goals instead of all of the other small details. Coming into a shelter can be overwhelming.” 

Collaboration and transparency are evident in Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness meetings with their funded partners across homeless services providers in Sarasota and Manatee counties. The goal is to work together to collect quality data and report it to the federal office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to maximize funding for essential human services.  

Empowerment is being demonstrated at Community Assisted & Supported Living (CASL). Some residents and staff are receiving the opportunity to participate in a trauma treatment, Rapid Resolution Therapy with Operation Warrior Resolution. Based on the evaluation results, we will see if these evidence-based treatments lead to residents remaining stably housed and achieving their goals. The goal is to prevent any resident from losing their housing due to untreated behavioral health conditions.  

“It is a privilege to assist our strong, reliable nonprofit partners with training and grant support to build on the strengths of the people they serve. By helping nonprofit staff to understand how trauma can impact behavior and ways to care for themselves, they are better positioned to successfully support program participants,” said Jennifer Johnston, Gulf Coast’s Director of Community Leadership.  

These organizations are leading the way in providing client-centered care that increases the likelihood that participants will be able to successfully leave homelessness behind. One agency representative said, “It’s already hard to remember how we operated before because so much has changed.” From giving participants more options, such as whether the office door is left open or closed during meetings, to asking “What happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?,” it’s about honoring the individual being served in that moment and knowing their behavior may be a signal to “handle with care.” 

Over 15 individuals stand and sit outside smiling. There is a dog that joins them.
CASL's Project HEAL Strategic Thinking Retreat

CASL shared, “This work has changed our interactions with everyone. We have longer onboarding for new staff and hired a training coordinator. CASL has seen an improvement in staff retention since beginning to infuse trauma-informed principles into onboarding and ongoing training.” 

Harvest House reflected, “Our organizational culture has shifted, trauma-informed care is being woven into everything we do. It is part of our strategic plan. We contracted with a full-time therapist for clients. The 100% employer-paid healthcare plan now includes unlimited therapy sessions for team members.” 

 Resource sharing sessions have included additional providers who are committed to trauma-informed care, Centerstone, Florida Center for Early Childhood, SPARCC, Safe Children Coalition, and Sarasota Memorial Health Care System’s Women and Children’s Division.  

In 2024, Phase Two of this Gulf Coast project will include a partnership with Resilient Retreat. Nonprofit staff will move from learning about trauma-informed approaches to living them through overnight retreats and cohort check-in sessions.  

Together, we are creating the conditions for all to thrive.  


HEALing Together

Published: Learn how Gulf Coast’s Project HEAL (Helping Everyone Align with Love) is working with local nonprofits to address the root causes of homelessness.

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