LOVE WHAT YOU DO: Homeward Bound

Fort Lauderdale’s homeless intervention administrator is living her dream

By Chris Lagerbloom | Jan 1, 2021 | ARTICLE

Angela Blaine knows what it’s like to be homeless, and she has made it her mission to help others find their way out.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Blaine experienced homelessness about 20 years ago. She had been laid off from her job as customer service job representative and got evicted from her apartment as a result. Blaine ended up living in a temporary housing center. “It was a bit of a shock,” Blaine said. “I told myself ‘I am going to make the best of the situation.’”

After about five months, things began to turn around. Blaine took advantage of educational programs and ended up landing a job at the same agency that helped her get back on her feet. She got her own apartment, and realized her true calling was to aid the homeless.

Blaine eventually made her way to Florida and started working as a clerk with the city of Fort Lauderdale. It was supposed to be a temporary position, but four years later, Blaine hasn’t left the city—and now works as its homeless intervention administrator. “This was my dream,” Blaine said. “To work with local governments and to work with the homeless. I am living my dream.”

She works in partnership with the city’s neighbor support manager, Hal Barnes, to help the city’s homeless population. “He is very patient and very supportive of everyone on the neighbor support team,” Blaine said.

Blaine had been in her current role for less than a year when the COVID-19 pandemic began. She and Barnes worked on the city’s plan for the homeless. Through the temporary hotel voucher program, the city was able house more than 100 homeless people in two area hotels during the lockdown period. Local businesses and private donors also stepped in to provide food and services. But city’s efforts didn’t stop there. The city and a group of volunteers worked together to offer on-site case management services, legal aid, job training assistance, and other services to the homeless.

Scott Pring was nursing a foot injury and was in a wheelchair when Fort Lauderdale police brought him to one of the hotels participating in the housing program. About a week into his stay, the 53 year old ended up in the hospital because of his foot. “[Angela Blaine] was very understanding of my situation and would say ‘Don’t worry about losing your room because you’re injured,’” Pring said. “That felt very good. I give them five stars. They were all helpful.”

The city later helped arrange for Pring to go back to his relatives in Nebraska by bus. But on the day he was supposed to make the trip, Blaine surprised him with an airplane ticket home. The ticket had been purchased by a local donor. “A few days later the cops gave me a ride to the airport, and after one little layover in Texas, I was home,” Pring said. Pring is now living in Grand Island, Nebraska and keeps in touch with Blaine.

He also recently learned she had once been homeless herself. “It doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “She is patient and I’m always like, ‘I don’t know how you can be so patient with this nonsense.’ I never saw her get upset with anybody. She seemed like she was always looking for ways she could help.”

Blaine had been working with the city for about two years before administrators learned she had experienced homelessness herself. The revelation came during a meeting about resources when she shared with her colleagues about her past and the types of services that would’ve helped her. Blaine uses her past to create bonds with the hundreds of people the city provides assistance to each year. “I think it’s important to mention it to people so they know I am not asking them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself,” Blaine said.

The city recently received a letter from a formerly homeless father thanking them for their assistance in helping his family get a fresh start. In his letter, the man wrote this about Blaine:

Angela Blaine has taken time from her weekend to come in and help me. She has called me many times to guide and assist me. She works so hard and goes above and beyond in what she can do. Her compassion and knowledge has helped me in more ways than I can tell you. We feel a special connection to her. She is a wonderful human being and a kind soul.

Blaine says she loves her job with the city, and cannot imagine working anywhere else. “I truly enjoy working for the city of Fort Lauderdale,” she said. “The people I work with, it’s like a family.” Blaine says she wants to help the city continue and improve assistance programs for the homeless. “We care and we are passionate about it,” she said. “We want to do what we can for our neighbors.”

 CHRIS LAGERBLOOM is city manager of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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