Open letter to Mayor Welch

Rev. Robert Ward, senior pastor of Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church

Dear Mayor Ken Welch:

We are FAST (Faith and Action for Strength Together), an Interdenominational/Interfaith community of over 50 congregations throughout Pinellas County. Over the past 20 years, we have called for elected officials to implement certain public service programs, including funding a full day of Pre-K for low-income families, establishing a disadvantaged worker program to create jobs for ex-offenders, allocating a portion of the Penny for Pinellas funds for affordable housing, advocating for Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion and many other social programs that benefit the people of our community.  These past victories were not easy, popular nor did they come swiftly.

As a justice organization, we believe in strategic action for massive impact. Our strategies are purposeful and effective in creating change for the people in our community. Over the past three years, we have been focusing our attention on housing insecurity, as this has become a major crisis in our community. This crisis is felt most by those who were already struggling to provide basic necessities for their families. We have been calling on Mayor Ken Welch and the City of St. Petersburg to make affordable housing a priority for those in our community, making 80 percent AMI or less ($48,000/single adult, $69,000/family of four).

Members of Faith and Action for Strength Together

These people are the backbone of our communities that keep our stores operating, work in the emergency medical areas, provide childcare, service workers, chaplains, etc. – many of whom are now migrating out of our community due to the lack of affordable housing. We are seeing and hearing stories of young people graduating and starting out in their first careers and leaving our community due to a lack of affordable housing. Studies show that African-American communities in St. Petersburg have drastically dropped over the past 10 years due to the lack of affordable housing. This is a crisis we must all work together to solve.

As we fight for affordable housing, our city leadership continues to seem unmoved by the outcry of the community members. High-rises, expensive rental townhomes and condos continue to be approved, driving more people out of the neighborhood and out of our community. City officials and developers say they are building affordable and workforce housing. But as new housing pops up, the signs that come with them have price points beginning at $600K and $700K. To which we ask, “Affordable for who?”

In a recent article in the St. Pete Catalyst, Rev. J.C. Pritchett, a close confidant and relative of Mayor Welch, stated that “this idea that someone is going to come save the African-American community with free housing and free meals … is un-American, naïve, and immature. This (the Gas Plant Redevelopment) is an opportunity to get a piece of the pie by participating in capitalism and being entrepreneurs.”

This is a callous view of those struggling most in our economy. Single working parents, service workers, young people just starting out, and those making 80 percent of AMI or less ($48,000/single adult, $69,000 /family of four) are the vast majority of America. None of these are seeking “free housing and free meals;” they are hardworking people seeking affordability.

Our faith traditions teach us to care for those hurting most in our communities and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We hope our mayor does not hold the same view that these people are begging for “free housing and free meals.” Choosing to keep people in our community should be more of a priority than the profits of a baseball team. We are calling on Mayor Welch to put people over profits. We are calling Mayor Welch to have a plan to create 5,000 affordable (not free) housing units for people making 80 percent of AMI or less by the end of his first term. This is an achievable goal.


FAST Clergy

Rev. Robert Ward, Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church
Rabbi Michael Torop, Temple Beth-El
Rev. Dr. Timothy Ehrlich, Oakhurst United Methodist Church
Deacon Paul Koppie, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church
Fr. John Tapp, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church
Rev. Jean Cooley, Lakeview Presbyterian Church
Fr. Curtis Carro, St. Raphael Catholic Church
Rev. Bobby Musengwa, Maximo Presbyterian Church
Rev. Mike Alford, Cathedral Church of St. Peter
Rev. Keith Walbolt, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Rev. Lois Rogers-Watson, East Lake United Methodist Church
Rev. William Hull, Pinellas Point Interfaith Justice Seekers
Rev. Ben Winder, First Baptist Church of St. Pete
Rev. Courtney Jones, Circle of Faith
Rev. Andy Oliver, Allendale United Methodist Church
Rev. Linda McLeod, Unity of Midtown
Bishop Preston Leonard
Chaplain Doug Harrell, First Baptist Church of St. Pete
Rabbi Joshua Lobel, Temple B’nai Israel
Rev. Bob Hill, Hope Presbyterian
Rev. Oscar Banks, Palm Lake Christian Church

One Reply to “Open letter to Mayor Welch”

  1. S. Rose Smith-Hayes says:

    $48,000 is $4,000 a month. How many single persons make that amount in St. Petersburg, Fl?? What about the $12.00 hr employees making $24,960???? Where is this single person going to live when a one bedroom apartment is $1700 a month???FAST is not even considering the ‘regular’ people. $48,000 annual salary is a professional, teacher, nurse, policeman etc. I believe that there are more ‘regular’ people needing relief. We need our store clerks, waiters, cleaning folk etc.

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