MELBOURNE, Fla. – It's deemed a path towards permanent housing.

What You Need To Know

  • Melbourne offering a new program to tackle homelessness

  • Program to offer a path toward permanent housing

  • Initally, 30 people will be part of the program

And now Melbourne's homeless can find a way off the streets through a first of its kind program in Brevard County.

After serving in the Marine Corps, Albert Gardner's life spiraled downward. For years he's been homeless, scraping by to survive on the streets of south Florida.

Most recently in Melbourne.

"I was sleeping on the sidewalks," Gardener said.

He found refuge at the Daily Bread, where warm meals, clothes and showers are available each day. But Gardener wants a way to do even better. He wants a place to call home.

"I won't be rained on, stuff like that," he said.

He's finding it through the new "The Street to Home Bridge Housing Program" created by the city of Melbourne. It's a partnership with Steadytown and Daily Bread.

"That's really the key to the program, getting them off the street, stabilized and into a permanent housing scenario," said Cindy Dittmer, Melbourne Economic Development and Planning director.

"We don't want this to be any kind of vacation from homelessness, come inside for a while, then go back outside," said Jeff Njus, Daily Bread executive director.

The first step is staying in a hotel, then on the path to their own home. Initially, 30 people who are homeless will be part of the program, many of them with chronic health issues and at more risk to get COVID-19. Brevard Health Alliance is providing testing and medical care.

"It's especially people living downtown, that their pillow is a sidewalk," Njus said. "Those are folks that are more vulnerable."

Gardener has diabetes, so he is a higher risk. So he will be safer off the streets.

"It's a golden opportunity for everyone of us who live out there," he said.

Funding for temporary housing is paid for with Coronavirus relief funds provided by the state.

The Brevard Homeless Coalition will take the next step for permanent places for homeless to live.