Monday, September 29, 2008

The Florida Bar has announced a major new initiative to help struggling homeowners. Florida Lawyers Assisting Homeowners (FLASH) will pair homeowners who have missed payments, but who are not yet in foreclosure, with volunteer attorneys who work in the area of real property law. This Statewide effort has launched a toll-free hot line (866-607-2187) and will take calls from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The program is intended to provide assistance to homeowners in negotiating with their lenders. To be eligible, the homeowner’s income must not exceed 125 percent of the national poverty level based on family size and yearly income and be a Florida resident.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A federal judge on Friday struck down an Orlando ordinance that barred large group feedings for homeless at downtown area parks.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell said the city ordinance violates the constitutional rights of activists who want to feed the homeless.

Activists who had been feeding the homeless in Lake Eola Park sued the city in 2006 over the ordinance passed that year.

Attorney Jacqueline Dowd, who represented plaintiffs including First Vagabonds Church of God and Orlando Food Not Bombs, said they were "thrilled" with the ruling.

"We are hopeful that this ruling will have an impact on cities across the country that are thinking of regulating people who want to help those less fortunate," Dowd said.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Homeless Students Face Special Challenges:

They live with friends of their parents, with relatives, in garages and in shelters.

They sleep on couches, on floors, and share beds with brothers and sisters in low-cost motels.

Sometimes they live in cars.

They are children and, according to advocates, approximately 1,100 kids in Charlotte, DeSoto and Hardee counties are homeless under the guidelines established by the federal Department of Education. Helping them succeed academically presents educators with some special challenges.

"Children who are homeless often don't do as well on standardized tests as their peers because they don't have a regular place to study and often their parents, who may be working two or three jobs, don't have the time to help them with their homework," said Carmen McCraink, an associate professor of education at Barry University in Miami.

"To combat that, it's important that teachers recognize the signs that these students are having trouble adjusting to their circumstances — such as turning in homework assignments late or not at all — and act quickly to help them, she said.

A failure to do that, she said, could result in the school system itself victimizing these students by classifying them as unwilling or unable to meet academic standards.

Fortunately, there is help for school districts that have homeless students.

The federal Department of Education administers a special grant program aimed at helping students who are homeless succeed academically despite a nomadic lifestyle that keeps them constantly on the move, said Chantal Phillips, who works for the Charlotte County public school system..

“When children bounce around from school to school lack of academic success becomes an issue,” Phillips said. “One of the ways we deal with that is to allow kids to stay in the same school even though their addresses may change and they’re no longer in the districted area.”

Associate Editor
See the Charlotte Sun on September 7 for the full story

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