Homeless Help

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Florida has the third highest homeless population in the country. The number has caused lawmakers to want to invest in getting people back on their feet.

There are more than 47 thousand homeless in Florida on any given night. Now lawmakers in Tallahassee are trying to pump money into grant programs to reduce homelessness.

Sen. Jack Latvala is from Penellas County. “In my own county in Pinellas, we spend a lot of money on homelessness, but we really don’t appear to have a program that pulls in the shelter aspect as well as the assistance and training.”

Senator Latvala and Representative Kathleen Peters hope that their bills in the house and senate can fund challenge grants. The grants provide housing and other services for the homeless. Peters says that the problem extends to every age group. “Children are the highest population among the homeless, so we have kids couch surfing and just surviving out on the streets and we need to take care of them.”

Even though Governor Rick Scott has vetoed similar proposals in the past, the bills sponsors are confident that these programs are a hand up, and not a hand out.

The bill would provide expanded grants based to communities that would locally match the money. Latvala says this program is different than ones Scott has vetoed. It focuses on job placement and other programs to teach life skills. “Just opening a center where people can come at 6 o’clock at night until 6 o’clock in the morning to hang out is a bandaid approach.”

The grant programs were eliminated from the state budget during the recession. The goal of the challenge grant money is to get people into their own housing.

Susan Personis is with the Florida Homeless Coalition. “Who one day will have a much better quality of life and will save our community dollars when they come in to their own housing.”

Latvala and Peters said they crafted the bill after programs already in place in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties

The bill also directs funding to the Department of Children and Families to distribute and establish homeless programs.

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