Melbourne hires Casey Gilbert to tackle homelessness as city-community liaison

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The city of Melbourne has hired a Community Affairs Liaison Officer – a newly created post – to study homelessness and seek solutions with nonprofits and businesses.

Casey Gilbert started working on October 11. She was Executive Director of Melbourne Main Street from 2014 to 2015 and Portland Downtown from 2015 to 2020 in Maine.

“We are extremely happy to have her. She has experience in the private and non-profit world, has done strategic planning,” City Manager Shannon Lewis said at the Melbourne City Council meeting. October 12.

“Has his doctorate in public policy, his masters in public affairs and his undergraduate degree in community development and economics,” said Lewis.

The idea of ​​creating a community affairs liaison post emerged in May during a special 4.5-hour city council meeting on begging and homelessness.

Casey Gilbert has been hired as the City of Melbourne Community Affairs Liaison.

Gilbert’s hiring comes as Melbourne and Palm Bay officials strategize to move the historically controversial Daily Bread soup kitchen / outreach center from downtown Melbourne to an undetermined location.

Daily Bread would become a 24-hour operation providing temporary accommodation, vocational training and addiction services.

Melbourne City Council unanimously designated $ 2.5 million in federal COVID-19 stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for the potential Daily Bread expansion last month, and Palm City Council Bay unanimously supported the concept.

Next, Lewis said staff from Melbourne and Palm Bay City Halls would discuss the Daily Bread proposal next week.

“At this point we have both governing bodies who have expressed their willingness to further investigate the project. Staff are now tasked with determining the process we need to use to do so,” Lewis said.

A group of homeless people sit in the shade of a tree with their bikes and various belongings in Wells Park in Melbourne.

Following:Daily Bread’s expansion plan gets $ 2.5 million allocation from Melbourne, backing Palm Bay

Following:Homeless expert: Melbourne “on the brink of a crisis” with too many police calls

Gilbert earns $ 68,708 per year. The Community Affairs Liaison Officer – who will report to City Council – replaces a vacant administrative assistant position in the City Manager’s office.

Gilbert is Co-Chair of the Melbourne Regional Chamber Nonprofit Council and a member of the Leadership Brevard Class of 2022. In June 2020, she founded PowerWith Consulting, based in downtown Melbourne.

“While I’m very policy-oriented, I’m also very people-oriented,” Gilbert said. “So this post will not be for me sitting in a desk doing numbers. It will be a part. But the other part is going to make sure that I hear the voices of the community,”

Melbourne officials have illustrated the extent of homelessness in meetings since the spring:

  • About 20-30% of calls to the Melbourne Police Department since November have been about homelessness and related issues.
  • A census of the Street to Home movement showed a 13% increase in the homeless homeless population in Melbourne, from 234 people in 2019 to 264 in 2020.
  • A Melbourne Main Street survey of more than 200 inner-city shoppers and traders showed that the main factors discouraging them from coming to the city center were homelessness and begging.

“There are so many organizations that provide services to homeless individuals and families. It will be important for me to understand this scope,” Gilbert said.

Last month, city council approved a list of building code changes to encourage the development of more affordable housing by reducing construction costs.

These Melbourne code changes reduce the minimum size for single-family homes from 1,000 square feet to 550 square feet for a one-bedroom unit, 650 square feet for a two-bedroom unit and 800 square feet for a three-bedroom unit.

Rick Neale is the South Brevard Watchdog reporter at FLORIDA TODAY (For more of his stories, click here.) Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or rneale@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @ RickNeale1

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