Published on: Key Biscayne Magazine
Text by: Extrellita S. Sibila
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Anyone who has met Carlos Fernandez-Guzman will tell you that he commands a room with a superb ability to make people feel valued, appreciated and heard. As the leader of the team at Pacific National Bank, making every one of his co-workers feel like they make a difference – personally, professionally and as members of the community – is one of his top goals.
And he most certainly practices what he preaches. CFG, as his friends call him, is the volunteer Chair of the Executive Committee Et Board of Trustees for Chapman Partnership, a homeless assistance agency with a “lifetime to date” success rate of 64% for transitioning the homeless to housing.
“Our goal is for our residents to have the skills and income to live independently from the first day of departure,” he says. This process starts when the resident enters one of Chapman Partnership’s two Homeless Assistance Centers. They are assigned a case manager who helps create an action plan that includes a range of services from job training and placement to obtaining eligible benefits, childcare and healthcare assessment. Their Employment Specialist facilitates the missing elements in the job search including interview clothes, bus passes and certification fees. They also connect residents to agencies that help with securing proper ID, social security numbers and work permits.
Each year, they place hundreds of work-ready adults into full-time jobs and help stabilize the family units. The next step is finding suitable and affordable housing and assisting residents with everything from applications, utility and security deposits to providing needed furniture, household goods and move-in supplies. The average length of stay at the Homeless Assistance Center is approximately 70 days for individuals and 100 days for families.
On moving day, the resident or family is relocated into their new place where all their household items – from pots and pans to furniture, linens and art – are sourced from Chapman Partnership’s warehouse and provided free of charge. “Not a day goes by since becoming involved in Chapman Partnership that I don’t think of my mother, a young woman arriving in Miami by herself with a 9-year-old child without a penny to her name – she had no family, no prospects for employment, and only the promise of a friend’s couch to sleep on for the next 60-90 days,” shares Fernandez-Guzman. “It’s incumbent on me, and others like me, to make things better for those who may be going through similar life experiences.”
The nobleness of the cause, the purity of the mission and the challenges faced by the people they serve are all reasons Fernandez-Guzman is passionate about the cause. “Together with The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust and other members of the continuum of care, the unsheltered homeless population of Miami-Dade County has decreased from approximately 8,000 in the early and mid-90’s to approximately 1,000 today,” he says. “With that said, we cannot rest until we eradicate homelessness in our community.”