Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rick Scott Slashes $2m in Homeless Assistance

Ripples of outrage have been spreading all week since the approval of the latest Florida state budget. Mixed into the piles of public services gutted from next years budget were millions allocated to government sponsored local homelessness initiatives.

Here in Fort Lauderdale, $800,000 ii funding for the Rapid Re-Housing program was vetoed. Much like the infamous budget cuts that killed the Sunrail, Rick Scott's veto pen is actually stopping the flow of federal dollars, in this case from HUD, from helping the general public and the very needy statewide. 

Rapid Re-Housing has been the City of Fort Lauderdale's lynchpin plan for reducing homelessness in downtown; throughout the last several years of controversy around Fort Lauderdale's homeless policies, City officials have always pointed to Housing First & Rapid Re-Housing as proof of the good intent. At this time it is unclear if and how the City will be able to keep the program funded for the next year. 

As this blog is getting fairly tired of reporting, this budget cut is part of ongoing hot streak of homeless service cuts effecting downtown Ft Lauderdale, including but limited to, the sharing ban, the closure of the Homeless Voice, and the shutdown of homeless outreach services at "The Tree."

Here's a full list of homeless services cut by Rick Scott this week, some of which has already been stirring up controversy:

Citrus Health Network for the Safe Haven for Homeless Youth Program - $100,00
Miami-Dade Homeless Trust - $189,794
Eckerd and Brevard C.A.R.E.S (homelessness intervention and prevention services) $500,000
Jacksonville SOAR Outreach Program (chronically homeless persons) $97,000
Metropolitan Ministries-Pasco Transitional Housing $1,000,000
City of Ft. Lauderdale Rapid Rehousing Project $800,000
Clearwater Homeless Emergency Project  $400,000

Monday, June 1, 2015

Tree Closing is Yet Another City Hate Law

As of today, "The Tree," the informal meeting place for homeless people to get in touch with County homeless services, is off the limits. The City wants to open the land on NW 2nd in between Andrews & 1st ave up for bidding for destruction and development. However, it also conveniently fits into the City's overall effort to ban and displace homeless people and their homeless services from downtown Ft Lauderdale, particularly north of Broward Blvd in the area of the bus terminal.

The shutdown of the Tree is the latest in a countless string of closures of homeless services in the last few years, from the buy-out of the Homeless Voice to last fall's notorious attempts to shut down all outdoor food sharing organizations downtown. Despite the fact that one of the county's main outreach efforts as part of its Homeless Initiative operates at this location, many of these services will be cut without a replacement location being provided.

Homeless advocates and others who have experienced the services provided at the tree will be gathering on Monday, June 1st, to mark this somber occasion and discuss the urgent demand for more inclusive spaces for the needy in downtown instead of more displacement tactics and bad City policy.

Monday, May 4, 2015

May Day Recap

Friday's 6 month anniversary of resistance to Ft Lauderdale's sharing ban merged seemlessly with the call for "May Day for Freddie Gray" in solidarity with the Baltimore Uprising. About 100 activists joined FNB's weekly sharing in Stranahan Park and then crashed Las Olas' Wine & Food Fest before shutting down traffic on Broward Blvd from Victoria Park to Andrews Avenue. While there were no arrests, there were many confrontations between the FLPD, many of whom were on bicycles, and the protesters that they unsuccessfully tried to force off the streets for most of the march.

Large albums of this colorful and musical May Day march can be found here, here and here.

This protest marks yet another successful fusion between the homeless discrimination struggles of Food Not Bombs and other rebel food sharers and the new tide of anti-racist, anti-police brutality activism of the Broward Dream Defenders and many others besides. The Dream Defenders are following up Friday's protest with a visit this Tuesday to everyone's favorite stalwart of the unjust status quo, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission. Dream Defenders are signed up for citizen's presentations about City's unjust and discriminatory policing towards communities of color and homeless people.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

May Day! 6 Months of Resistance

May 1st, 2015 marks 6 months since the enforcement of the sharing ban began in downtown Fort Lauderdale - 6 months since countless homeless aid groups were threatened with shutdown over the city's pursuit of its anti-homeless agenda.

One of these groups, Ft Lauderdale Food Not Bombs, is celebrating 6 months of continued survival and resistance on May 1st, which is International Worker's Day. More information is to come but speakers and music are invited to FNB's regular sharing on Friday, May 1st at 5 pm, followed by a march through downtown at 7 pm. We hope it will be a great opportunity for all the different people from different backgrounds to come together and celebrate the resistance to Homeless Hate Laws once more. We still have a long way to go, even considering the FLPD's slow-motion meltdown over its officers' recent conduct towards its poor and marginalized citizens. 

Homeless Guide V2

The first updated version of "The Unofficial Ft Lauderdale Guidebook for the Needy & Homeless" is out. We've created a page on this very blog to permanently host the most recent version of the guide. Share, print, and share again!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Year One

April marks 1 year since the City began hearing and passing their "Homeless Hate Laws," and 1 year of resisting them.

While the legal challenges to the City's sharing ban trudges on, not much has been done to stop the other homeless hate laws. This is despite the fact that cities such as Miami & Gainesville both rejected laws last month similar to Fort Lauderdale's camping ban, which passed in September without much of a ruckus. 

One participant in the homeless hate regime that has not had an easy 2015 is the FLPD (and a host of other Broward County police departments), who have been riddled with scandals, indictments, and resignations for months now.

Another major change for the homelessness struggle in the area is the closure of COSAC/ Homeless Voice. While Sean Cononie's exodus took dozens of homeless people to their new "pay-what-you-can" motel project in Central Florida, many chronically homeless people in the Hollywood area are basically shit out of luck.  Hollywood PD's homeless outreach program painted a rosy picture of the transition, claiming that ultimately only 9 people " would not or could not move out of Hollywood." No new facilities or services are being created in Broward County to replace The Homeless Voice building, and Hollywood plans to turn it into more overpriced stores and condos. 

In other news more food has come to downtown in the form of #payitfwdftl, a project for customers of participating businesses can pitch into donations to homeless people. Slice Pizzeria next to the downtown library has already given away hundreds of slices of pizza in the past 2 weeks. There's also a project to pass on prepaid cards at the Broward Blvd Laundromax.

So welcome to year 2!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Presenting a Homelessness Guide in a Misguided State

Saturday marked the official release of the first version of "The Unofficial Guidebook for the Needy & Homeless." You can download it here. This guide builds on the County's slim offerings of homeless services with sections on where to find food sharings and a more complete collection of shelter and addiction resources.

We hope this guide can go a long way to upending the misinformed, under-served state of the marginalized people of Ft Lauderdale. Unfortunately the misguided sentiment of homeless policymakers in Ft Lauderdale and the entire state seem to grind on. Lee Feldman's plan to turn a disused BSO stockade into a shelter for downtown's chronically homeless fell through this week.

At the same time, the City of Miami is looking to attack homeless rights in the wake of the weakening of the Pottinger Agreement. On Thursday morning the City plans to pass a ban that would make it a criminal offence to possess blankets, mats, or pillows on the streets of Miami. The National Lawyers Guild and other activists are attending to oppose Miami's new attempt at a "Homeless Hate Law."

The Huffington Post also offered a blistering feature this week on Dr Robert Marbut, a millionaire homelessness consultant who has helped institute a policy of forcing homeless people off the streets in counties throughout the state. It's really a must-read for those that want to understand the currents of policy-making for homeless services in Florida.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Anti-Police Brutality Protests Continue Downtown

Following online & media outrage over the actions of FLPD Officer Victor Ramirez, anti-police brutality protests occurred Saturday at the Ft Lauderdale Police Department and Tuesday at Ft Lauderdale City Commission. Police Chief Adderly has continued to  make statements claiming that the incident will be fully investigated.

While the press has been closely following this story, the systemic way in which the FLPD handles the chronically homeless in downtown is something the City is still in denial about. Homeless advocates and other speakers were heavily discouraged from mentioning the incident when discussing the sharing ban and other issues throughout the City Commission meeting. The zoning amendment to the "sharing ban" ordinance passed.

"The Unofficial Ft Lauderdale Guidebook for the Needy & Homeless"

Saturday homeless advocates gather at the Unitarian Universalist Church for a screening of the documentary "Uncharted," which focuses on chronic homelessness in Indianapolis. As a matter of fact, Indianapolis City Council just this week passed a Homeless Bill of Rights.

Also available at the movie screening will be the first edition of "The Unofficial Ft Lauderdale Guidebook for the Needy & Homeless." This new resource book for homeless services particularly focuses on the needs of people in downtown Fort Lauderdale in a way that the City has avoided for years. This project is a result of yet another collaboration between homeless advocates in Ft Lauderdale to not just resist homeless hate laws but to provide the communication and services needed  to help those that are constantly slipping through the cracks in South Florida. They are free to everyone and we will be looking for help distributing it to various homeless service providers and downtown in the coming weeks.