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For civic-minded leader, helping the homeless was a matter of heart

Chapman Partnership announces milestone

MIAMI Alvah Herman Chapman Jr. was sitting at his apartment near Miami's Grove Isle.

The World War II veteran and former Knight-Ridder chairman had retired. But he was a busy man on a mission. In his breast pocket, close to his heart, he kept a piece of paper. There were numbers written on it. That was how he kept track of the progress a couple of homeless shelters in Miami-Dade were making.

Helping the homeless was an idea that he had a year before Hurricane Andrew devastated neighborhoods in Miami-Dade. He had finished a religious workshop that he said intensified his sense of compassion. And while driving, he said he knew he had to help the homeless who were leaving under the bridge.

"Miami-Dade County's primary emergency intake facility for the homeless, today announced that this month it admitted its 100,000th resident since opening 19 years ago," the Chapman Partnership announced this week.

Chapman would have rejoiced at the news -- since 1995 there have been 100,000 admissions, 20,000 children, 800,000 meals served per year, 166,500 medical visits, 76,500 dental procedures, 20,000 volunteers, and a 64 percent success rate. The national average is 15 percent.

Chapman died of pneumonia in 2008. He was 87. Before he died, he made sure there was a team in place to keep the homeless shelters going for years to come. He was a Republican. It was important to make sure that the goal of the public-private partnership focus on helping the homeless to become self-sufficient.

The Chapman Partnership incorporated in 1993.  Today its downtown Miami and Homestead facilities have 800 beds. They serve three meals daily and 44 percent of the residents are children and families. There is an on-site kennel, so the families don't have to be separated from their dogs. There is psychiatric care, a day care, after-school tutoring, job training and an employment placing program. 

When Chapman was alive, there was an effort to name the homeless shelters after him. He declined, because he said he did not want the children to be embarrassed. He wanted them to feel like the shelters were their home, he said.

"No one has a name on their house," Chapman said. "The number is all you need."

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