Grants bring social, financial gain
Last October, Alpha House of Tampa was awarded $50,000 through the city of Tampa's highly competitive Community Development Block Grant annual funding process. This sounds like a drop in the bucket of the $3 billion the federal government would cut nationwide with its proposed budget. However, for homeless pregnant women and parenting mothers and their children served by Alpha House of Tampa, elimination of this funding would prove devastating.
Alpha House of Tampa's CDBG-funded program assists homeless women in crisis by providing safe emergency shelter, pre- and post-natally, so they can develop the education and skills necessary to become and remain employed in living-wage jobs and ultimately move into permanent housing. Many Alpha House of Tampa residents face one or more of the crises of homelessness: domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness and poverty.
Our CDBG funding supports a full-time housing case manager who assists residents with finding permanent housing and integration into the community. The case manager conducts needs assessments, provides mediation and advocacy with landlords, makes referrals to appropriate community-based social services and/or programs, and offers budget counseling and education to empower women to secure appropriate housing. Most importantly, the case manager provides home visits to former residents to ensure stability and continued progress toward self-sufficiency so they do not return to homelessness.
Contrary to statements otherwise, CDBG funding has more than proven its worth by improving living conditions for the poor, including women who are pregnant and homeless. For example, in 2016, three-quarters of families who exited Alpha House of Tampa moved into permanent housing. This represented a cost savings to the Tampa Bay community estimated at $4.6 million. Equally, if not more significant, 67 mothers found affordable and secure housing so they are stabilized for the long term, helping to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and for their children.
I encourage our citizenry to lobby elected officials to continue funding Community Development Block Grants. It makes sense, financially and socially.
Patricia J. Langford, Tampa
The writer is executive director of Alpha House of Tampa.
Keep state building codes strong | March 29, commentary
Building codes remain solid
Craig Fugate's recent column, written on behalf of Floridians for Safe Communities, is a classic example of modern-day fear-mongering by an organization whose sole purpose is to protect special interests and derail reasonable reform.
Contrary to Fugate's remarks, Senate Bill 7000 was designed to bring more common sense to Florida's building code update process. There is no evidence to suggest that the bill prevents potential innovations or provisions designed to enhance safety from making it into our code. In fact, the bill specifically requires the Florida Building Code to maintain all of the energy efficiency, wind and water intrusion standards currently adopted, many of which exceed those required by the International Code Council.
I have known Fugate for over 15 years and have great respect for his many accomplishments as a public servant at the state and federal level. I served as president of the Florida Senate during the hurricane era Fugate refers to in his op-ed and accompanied Gov. Jeb Bush on several of the same tours of storm-ravaged areas. I too am a strong advocate for Florida's modernized building code.
Fugate's assertion that SB 7000 will somehow result in a weakened Florida Building Code amounts to nothing more than scare tactics, and he offers no evidence to substantiate his allegations.
Perhaps what is most disappointing is that someone of Fugate's stature would allow himself to serve as the face of Floridians for Safe Communities. This group, posing as a "broad-based coalition" to safeguard Floridians, was created overnight in direct response to SB 7000. It serves no purpose other than to protect the status quo, provide a front for his column, and otherwise attempt to mislead the public.
I have every confidence that Florida's Building Commission will continue to responsibly update the code, and there is no good reason to suggest otherwise.
Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa
Continuing care retirement communities
Give reform bill a hearing
We're nearly halfway through the 2017 legislative session and lawmakers are missing an opportunity to protect the 30,000 senior citizens who live in Florida's 71 continuing care retirement communities. CCRCs provide a campus environment with independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing all in one setting.
Since 2013, there have been three CCRC bankruptcies in Florida. This is the most in more than 20 years. The most recent and concerning bankruptcy occurred at University Village in Tampa. During the last two years, the more than 500 senior citizens who reside at University Village have lived under a cloud of anxiety, literally not knowing what was going to happen to their community. The residents have seen collectively millions of dollars of hard-earned retirement funds invested into their CCRC disappear.
This case prompted state Sen. Tom Lee and Rep.Cyndi Stevenson to file meaningful reform legislation. The Florida Life Care Residents Association supports elements of the proposed legislation that would improve the ability of the Office of Insurance Regulation to protect the rights and welfare of the 30,000 residents living in CCRCs. Unfortunately, the Legislature has not heard either bill yet.
The vast majority of CCRC operators and owners are experienced, dedicated and successful in delivering quality services to seniors. This makes it even more important to improve the law to ensure that CCRCs continue to be seen as a vibrant and desirable long-term care option for seniors.
Pat Arends, Bradenton
The writer is president of the Florida Life Care Residents Association.