Letter to the Editor:
The last couple of weeks of trying to get a family of six housing, food and transportation between Pinellas and Seminole Counties have been one of the most eye-opening experiences I have encountered in a very long time within the social service arena.
The saga began after the NAACP received calls from five African-American women advising that they and their children had been kicked out of a CASA domestic violence shelter after 5 p.m. with nowhere to go.
The first struggle was wrapping my head around the fact that the women and their children were placed on the street after five o’clock with no forewarning. One of the families reported that their children faced a threatening situation while waiting outside of the shelter for a friend of the mother to make a second trip to pick the family up because all of them could not get into the vehicle at one time.
For families already having to find refuge in a domestic violence shelter attempting to escape danger only to be victimized again by being put on the street was more than one could wrap their head around given the amount of money that fund social service programs in two of the wealthiest counties in Florida, so I thought.
While these women called seeking justice out of the inhumane way they felt they had been treated, the two-week ordeal hasn’t yielded support for the family that opted to flee to Seminole County in hopes of securing temporary shelter. To my surprise, after exhausting all of the contacts and networks I could muster up, I was told that Central Florida was one of the worst places to be homeless.
The complexity of a solution was compounded threefold as a result of the largest of these families having either mixed gender siblings or multiple siblings.
Several years ago in multiple conversations and public commentary, I warned of a situation in the near future where those dependent on public assistance were going to have a rude awakening. That truth is facing us right now!
The ALICE report released by the United Way of the Suncoast has already talked about the number of families within the Tampa Bay area that barely make it from paycheck to paycheck, and a recent story in the Tampa Bay Times talked about the rising cost of rent in the bay area. That information was supported by my daughter who is a local realtor.
According to Cashmere Parker, a local real estate agent who has a passion for wealth building for black families, an average rental rate for a one bedroom in south St. Petersburg can range from $850 to $1,000 a month.
Folks, the chickens have come home to roost. We must recognize that if these social and economic situations continue to deteriorate as they are, we may find it difficult to rebound from potential ruins as a community.
If there were ever a time to put down the weapons against each other and combining our collective strengths toward a strategy for the greater good, that time is now!
Maria L. Scruggs
President, NAACP St. Petersburg Branch