Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Up Close With Yazmin Salguero

Benevolence has been in Yazmin Salguero’s blood for as long as she can remember. “I wanted to help people. It’s always what I wanted to do,” she says. “I’ve always had that motherly instinct in me.”

Salguero’s job provides her with daily opportunities to nurture that instinct. As the service population advocate for homeless prevention in the Delray Beach Police Department, she tends to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, and is tasked with helping to fulfill the mission statement of the department’s community outreach team: “to connect and provide alternative diversion services to those who are dealing with mental illness, experiencing homelessness and battling addiction.”

For the people under her care, largely seniors, this can mean providing them with everything from utility-bill assistance and home essentials to helping them apply for government aid. “I can help them apply for food stamps, or if they’re home-bound individuals who aren’t able to go to the store for themselves, I can set them up with homebound meals—get them meals delivered throughout the week,” she says. “I can help them with budgeting.”

For Salguero, who is supervised by Ariana Ciancio—the police department’s first service population advocate, hired in 2017, and now the manager of the community outreach team—the demand for her services can be overwhelming, as an increasing number of residents are on the precipice of homelessness. The affordable housing crisis and the economic impact of global inflation, coupled with Delray’s lingering history as a rehab-and-recovery capital, has led to an influx of residents in need, even if we don’t necessarily see them panhandling downtown or sleeping on park benches on Atlantic Avenue. This, in fact, is a testament to Ciancio’s team of four, which, among its many initiatives, facilitates a shower truck twice a week.

“We do our very best to keep everybody healthy, dressed nicely … which, in turn, motivates someone to do better, to go to a doctor, to go to treatment, to feel good about themselves,” Ciancio says.

“The work we are doing, social service-wise for the city and the population, is probably an entire department somewhere else,” Ciancio adds. “[Salguero is] in this door at 7 in the morning, and it doesn’t stop. What she’s doing should be modeled in every city in Palm Beach County.” (It’s important to note that their services are strictly limited to residents of Delray Beach; it’s common for the community outreach team to field requests from people all over the country who discover their program through articles like this one, but only Delray locals are included in their remit.)

Salguero owes her position in the department to a three-year, $300,000 grant from the Virginia and Harvey Kimmel Family Foundation, requested by the City of Delray Beach and its Task Force to End Homelessness, to address the city’s burgeoning un-housed and at-risk populations. The second person to hold the position, Salguero started full-time in July 2022 after a 10-month internship with the department. She’s putting her degrees—an undergrad in criminal justice and especially a master’s in social work, both from Florida Gulf Coast University—to good use.

She has been named an employee of the month from the Delray P.D., and believes that the patience and empathy she brings to her work has something to do with the Golden Rule—“being able to put myself in their shoes, seeing their perspective, being able to see both sides of the story,” she says. “I’ve never experienced homelessness myself; I’ve had family members that have experienced it. I’ve had family members experience mental health issues, substance abuse issues. I want to do what I hope someone would do for my family member, when they were in that position. That’s how I see it.”

“I can show a chart that shows the productivity from last year to this year just based on the people she’s helped—how much it’s improved just by putting in another body,” Ciancio adds. “That is what the grant was all about—funding this position to make what we do here even greater.”

This article is from the Summer 2023 issue of Delray magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

John Thomason
John Thomason
As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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