Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Among the budget recommendations submitted by newly-elected Florida Gov. Scott is an elimination of all funding for homeless grants, programs and services, the elimination of the state Office on Homelessness and Governor's Council and the purging of the homeless statute form the books. If successful, Florida would be one of only two states (the other being Wyoming) without a state Office on Homelessness.

Over the past years, the Florida Challenge Grant have been awarded through the Suncoast Partnership to local homeless service providers to provide an array of support services to people that were homeless or at-risk of homelessness. Last year's included Gulf Coast Legal Services to provide counsel to Manatee and Sarasota homeless residents and to families at-risk of eviction; Jewish Family and Children Services to provide new case management services to establish their award-winning Building Strong Families program in Manatee County, Catholic Charities to provide utility assistance to those in need throughout both counties, and Manatee Glens to provide street outreach to homeless men and women who were suffering from mental illness.

This year, HOPE Family Services and SPARCC (Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center) will use their Challenge Grants to serve victims of domestic violence, The Manatee Salvation Army will provide bus passes to residents to get to and from work, and Catholic Charities will again provide services through both counties, in particular to men and women with HIV/AIDS.
The Sarasota-Manatee community has also received three Florida Homeless Housing Assistance grant to construct a 26-bed apartment building for a year-long program that assists young families with children at the Sarasota Salvation Army. The resulting F.A.I.T.H was awarded the Salvation Army's "Best Social Service Program" in the nation last year, an award given only once every three years; purchase and renovate 18 units of housing for homeless men and women who suffer from mental illness; and build two 10-bedroom homes to house up to 40 men in recovery at Harvest House. Both buildings received Florida Green Building Council and, with the recent award of Veterans Per Diem Grant, most if not all these beds will be dedicated to house homeless veterans.

This is a sampling of what this drastic proposal will mean locally, with similar repercussions throughout the state as outlined below.
Governor Scott's budget proposal:
1) eliminates all Challenge Grant funding which supports local homeless and prevention services. This year 28 continuums received a total of $2,031,354 to provide these desperately needed services.
2) eliminates all staffing grants for local homeless coalitions. This year homeless coalitions each received $12,600 each to support office operations with a total of $345,729 provided state-wide.
3) eliminates the Office on Homelessness along with two (2) staff positions and funding for the Governor's Council on Homelessness. This year the funding level is $436,353 to provide the state support necessary to make local CoCs and coalitions successful.
4) eliminates the Homeless Housing Assistance Grant program. This year $3 million was granted to 6 local communities to create 348 units of housing for homeless individuals and families.
5) does not restore the Homeless Grant-in-Aid program which had provided 80% of all state funding to local CoCs until it was de-funded 2 years ago.
6) prohibits state funding from being used to support Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Programs throughout the state.
7) raids and eliminates the state's (Sadowski) affordable housing trust fund; instead an estimated $37.5 million in documentary stamp revenue in the trust fund for 2011-2012 would be funneled into the General Revenue.
8) and in a final blow, the Governor's proposal actually repeals the authorizing legislation for the State Office of Homelessness, the Council on Homelessness, Challenge Grant program and Homeless Housing Assistance Grant program. If adopted, these innovative, progressive homeless initiatives--10 years in the making--would come to an end on July 1, 2011.

But, all is not lost. The Florida Coalition for the Homeless, Sadowski Coalition and others are working overtime to defeat these Draconian proposals and we need your help.
Rep. Roberson represents a part of Sarasota County and Rep. Steube represents a part of Manatee County and both hold key positions on the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, with Rep. Roberson serving as vice-chair and reportedly not in favor of these cuts.We ask that CoC agencies and members meet or otherwise contact Rep. Roberson and Rep. Steube and explain how this assault on homeless funding, programs and services would impact our struggling communities.

While you're at it, you may also call Governor Scott's office at (850) 488-7146 and other House and Senate Subcommittee members (click on links below for contact information). In particular, Sen. Negron is the chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Subcommittee and we understand that he, Sen. Gaetz and Sen. Oelrich are concerned about homeless veterans, and that may be the tact to follow when you speak with them or their aides.
Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee 2011

House Heatlh Care Appropriations Subcommittee 2011
Please share this email with everyone in your agency community that cares about homelessness in our community, and ask them to contact these legislators and especially their local legislators. Legislators will be home the 1st week of March prior to the opening of the legislative session, and this would be a good time to also meet with them personally.
Thank you for your dedication to those most in need in our community.

Richard Martin, Executive Director Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Are you interested in what Englewood is doing to help the less fortunate in our community? Do you want to join a group of dedicated people working together to help the less fortunate and end homelessness? One person can make the difference in the life of someone struggling to make ends meet. Come join us and see how you can help.

What is wrong with this picture? Our new governor wants to cut out all funding for homeless shelters. Now more than ever we need to help families who have no place to go when they are losing their homes. Your voice needs to be heard, come join us.

The next meeting is Tuesday, February 22 at 6:00 at St. David's Episcopal Church, 401 S. Broadway, right off 776. Topics to be covered, The Ten Year Plan To End Homelessness and the Feed The Harbor, food drive by Publix for our food pantries. For more information call Pat Knox 828-7489 or St. David's Episcopal Church 474-3140

Monday, February 21, 2011

Orlando public feeding issue back in court, has cost taxpayers $150,000 so far:
After five years of protracted legal wrangling and back-and-forth rulings over an Orlando city “public feeding” ordinance, which restricts the sharing of food with groups of 25 or more within a two-mile radius of city hall, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal on Tuesday heard arguments in a rare rehearing of a case that has so far cost Orlando taxpayers nearly $150,000 in legal fees. #
The plaintiffs in the case are Orlando’s chapter of Food Not Bombs, an international anti-poverty activist group that provides vegetarian meals to the homeless twice a week in downtown Lake Eola Park, and the First Vagabonds Church of God, whose congregation is made up of mostly homeless individuals. #

Both groups, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the city for infringing on their First Amendment rights to free speech. Atlanta’s 11th Circuit Court of Appeal agreed to throw out the original ruling made by a three-person panel and allowed attorneys to present their arguments before the full court, with no witnesses or jury. The issue now hinges on one central question: whether or not feeding the homeless in a public park is “expressive speech” and as such protected by the Constitution.

In September, ACLU attorney Glenn Katon explained the rationale for the lawsuit in an interview with The Florida Independent:
That [ordinance] went into effect in August of 2006, and we challenged it right away, filing the lawsuit in federal district court, and inserted six different legal claims as to why the ordinance should be invalidated. After lots of procedural wrangling, we went to trial in May of 2008, before Judge Presnell in Orlando, and several months later got a ruling in our favor on a couple of the claims that invalidated the ordinance.
The claims that we won on were that the ordinance is unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech, because some of the plaintiffs were going out of their way to do these events in the main park in downtown Orlando and be very visible to raise awareness in the community of the problems of homelessness and hunger. So the judge said that was a speech activity, and that the ordinance unconstitutionally restricted it. The other claim we won on was for the other set of plaintiffs, which was a church for the homeless, where the court said there’s no rational basis for this ordinance, so therefore it restricts the free exercise of religion of the church.

Concerns have also been raised over the sheer cost of the legal battle against groups who seek to provide food to those in need, volunteering their time to combat a situation poised to only get worse as jobless numbers continue rising, unemployment benefits dry up and more individuals find themselves in the margins of society.

Noted on the front page of the Food Not Bombs website, alongside a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is the following:
Food Not Bombs shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry in over 1,000 cities around the world to protest war, poverty and the destruction of the environment. With over a billion people going hungry each day how can we spend another dollar on war?

As reported by Central Florida’s WFTV: #
“The issue is whether or not Food Not Bombs can share food with hungry or homeless people in public spaces, like this park, in order to convey a message to the community,” Food Not Bombs attorney Jacqueline Dowd told WFTV. #
But the city has argued that any group needs a permit to serve food downtown, and they only issue two permits a year. #
Food Not Bombs argues those permits infringe on their rights, making it a First Amendment food fight with your tax money.

Over the last six years, the city of Orlando has shelled out at least $148,000 to fight the issue. Homeless groups say that is an awful lot of bread. #
The city says that’s still cheaper than the $234,000 they’d have to pay if they lost the case and had to pay Food Not Bombs’ legal fees. The city also says Food Not Bombs can go outside the two-mile radius of the ordinance and feed until their hearts content.

Some view the move by the Orlando City Council to restrict group feedings in the downtown area as an attempt to conceal the problems of homelessness and hunger. Ben Markeson of Orlando Food Not Bombs told the Independent: #
“They’re trying to get rid of homeless people, and trying to stop groups from sharing food with them,” Markeson says, “because they think it hinders business and growth and redevelopment, so they’re basically putting profits ahead of people.” #
He says the city offered a fenced parking lot behind the Orlando Utility Commission building for groups wanting to feed the homeless, but likened the area — which has no running water and barbed-wire-tipped fencing, and requires a city worker to unlock a gate for entry — to an apartheid scenario.

“Basically what they are trying to do is stage an apartheid-like system in downtown Orlando based on socio-economic status,” he says. “I think that homeless people deserve access to the same public amenities, such as parks, as people who are more affluent. So I oppose the city’s attempt to institute discrimination and second-class citizenship against the homeless. We don’t use a dime of public money, and we don’t want anything from the city of Orlando except for them to stop trying to hinder us in sharing food with homeless people.”

City attorneys argued Tuesday that routine group feedings raised issues of safety and sanitation, and put a strain on city resources, while Dowd claimed that the city had not presented any evidence that the law protected the interest of the park, which she noted the homeless should have equal rights to access. She also argued that the feedings might actually help to deter crime.

Despite the city’s contention that the ordinance “applies equally to everyone, wealthy mansion-dwellers and homeless alike,” local activist Ben Markeson, who participates in the weekly sharings, disagrees, arguing that the true aim of the ordinance is to expel the homeless from downtown. “I seriously doubt that the city would swoop down to arrest the preschool teacher for handing out sandwiches to more than 25 kids,” he says.
In the concluding remarks of the brief, Dowd echoes Markeson’s charge: “[T]he city seeks to exclude people it views as unsafe, unsanitary and displeasing based on generalized, unsubstantiated prejudices and fears rather than on any legitimate government interest.” #
A ruling in the case is not expected for several months, yet given the rarity of the rehearing, homeless advocates are optimistic. While the verdict can be appealed, the Supreme Court only hears about 1 percent of requested cases and as such the Appeals Court decision will likely be final. #

Saturday, February 12, 2011

This Sunday FEBRUARY 13, 2011 AT 7:00PM Eastern Standard Time,
60 MINUTES will feature homeless children and their families
and the rapidly growing problem in the United States due to the

During this very moving segment several homeless students from
Central Florida will share with the nation the struggles that
they are facing from losing their homes and living in motels,
shelters or staying in “shared housing.” They will also talk
about being hungry as their parents struggle to survive the

We have one of our “Beth Davalos” from SC Public School helping
to tell our story. Our hope is that this segment will expose
the issues our children and their families face and gain
support to end homelessness in Central Florida and the Nation.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Launch of the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in Sarasota County:

I arrived at the Church of the Redeemer on Saturday morning around 8 a.m., only to find that a street art show covered Palm Avenue and had wiped out most of our parking. People were already arriving, and by 8:30 it was clear that we were going to need more chairs. Ultimately, several hundred people participated throughout the morning. We had great representation from law enforcement, there were city and county commissioners, service providers, agency heads, representatives from the business community and plenty of concerned citizens. And, perhaps most important, there was a large number of people who are or had been homeless.

After greetings from Executive Director Richard Martin, Father Wallace from the Church, and Carolyn Mason, I outlined the agenda for the day. We began with a report from Cheri Coryea, director of neighbourhood services in Manatee County, who described their process and success with a ten year plan to end homelessness. Then we broke into workgroups focusing on housing, prevention, economic development, safety and outreach, and health and human services. The work groups spent ninety minutes planning a way forward, deciding on goals, and giving homework assignments.

I had anticipated a large gathering and also suspected there would be folks who were not yet comfortable going into work groups, but wanted to add to the conversation. Therefore I led this group of fifty or so people by passing the microphone around and listening to those who wanted to be heard. There was great input from members of Florida Veterans for Common Sense, as well as from volunteers for the Resurrection House, Manasota Adventist Community Services, and those who volunteer at 911 Central Avenue in Sarasota.

Many of the people who are homeless had remained in my group. As the morning went on, they began to feel comfortable discussing the challenges of their daily lives. We heard both praise and criticism of local agencies, law enforcement, and municipal governments. Some had turned their life around, others were still struggling with substance abuse, mental illness or unemployment. I learned of the barriers that people must overcome to get medication, enroll their children in school, or simply to find a place to sleep. The stories told were powerful and impressed upon me the urgency of our project.

We concluded the morning by hearing brief reports from each of the work groups. Now we are attempting to synthesize the information we learned and report back to everyone who participated. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, March 11, at 2:00 p.m. at the Church of the Redeemer. If you want to come work with us, please do, whether you were able to make it to yesterday’s meeting or not. I am very grateful to everyone in Sarasota for your support. Together we can end homelessness if only we have the will to try.

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