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Hurricane Irma captured by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center - Sept 8 2017

Our story

Providence Family Life Center was founded in 2008 by a social worker with the aim of restoring dignity and respect to individuals who have faced difficult life experiences. The center achieved this goal by providing acceptance, support, education, and access to necessary resources to enhance their emotional well-being.

Providence Family Life Center operated as a community outreach organization, providing meals, clothing, support groups, tutoring, mentoring, and successful referrals for other services like housing, and healthcare.

In 2016, Antoinette met Daniel. They began their life together and pooled their expertise in clinical social work and non-profit business management, eventually relocating Providence Family Life Center to Southwest Florida.

Upon arrival in Southwest Florida they realized that prioritizing the gathering of data was important. This involved understanding the demographics of the county including age, race, and population health, as well as social issues such as food insecurity, economics, and employment. A needs assessment revealed that mental health and housing were the top two needs. It was crucial to gain an understanding of how they could best serve their new community in Lee County, Southwest Florida."

Antoinette and Daniel met with community leaders to introduce their services, specifically focusing on housing and mental health programs. Their work began by providing disability application assistance services to help children, youth, and adults living with undiagnosed mental illnesses, particularly those who were homeless, had no income, or lacked access to healthcare. Through their efforts, many community residents received assistance, including a substantial number of veterans living with conditions such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, and co-occurring substance dependence, as well as children with learning and developmental disabilities, and the elderly.

They recognized the significant need for safe and affordable housing in the community. As a response, they invested in the renovation of four houses to create 2 and 3-bedroom community homes for individuals aged 55 and older who were transitioning out of hospitals and shelters. This initiative provided many people with the opportunity for a fresh start in life, enabling them to transition to assisted living and reconnect with their families.

 

On Sunday, September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane. It was the first extreme weather event experienced by Providence Family Life Center in Fort Myers. The structural impact of the hurricane on surrounding communities, especially vulnerable and under-resourced populations, will never be forgotten.

 

Following the hurricane, Antoinette became interested in the mental health impacts of natural disasters on vulnerable populations and the agencies that served them before, during, and after a hurricane. She completed her doctoral research study and dissertation  aiming to understand how clinical social workers prepared to provide mental health services before, during, and after a major hurricane.

​In 2022, Hurricane Ian assaulted Southwest Florida, leaving Lee County devastated. More than 10 feet of storm surge, 50,000 homes destroyed and 161 fatalities.

3 days after the storm, Providence Family Life Center was contacted by Lee County Emergency Management to bring our team into the Public and Medical Shelters. They witnessed first hand, the emotional impact of surviving a Category 5 storm; countless individuals sharing their stories of floating for hours in the dark waters of the ocean waiting for rescue teams to arrive.

The team has provided Disaster Case Management to more than 200 individuals. Services range from coordinating resources, agency referrals,  facilitating support groups, and disaster project management from simple tarping of wind damaged structures to near complete rebuild of flooded homes.

Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity. 

Providence Family Life Center is a hyper-local agency, providing disaster recovery support services.

Providence Family Life Center is committed to helping individuals and communities prepare for extreme weather with disaster education and preparedness skills to respond safely, reduce the impact of traumatic stress and recover stronger.

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