Peace and Justice
Does Sarasota face a serious problem in providing affordable housing to local people who are homeless, disabled, or one paycheck away from homelessness? What is the scale of need? Read More
saint boniface PEACE & JUSTICE COMMITTEE
OUR MISSION STATEMENT:  The Peace and Justice Committee attempts to fulfill our Baptismal Covenant..."strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being" by identifying local issues of serious concern and developing strategies for individuals and the parish to courageously address those issues.  Think globally, act locally.
 
S.U.R.E. TAKES UP AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN SARASOTA
Evicted, the recent bestselling book by Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond, studies the seemingly endless crises experienced by eight lower income families living in Milwaukee.  All were evicted at some time, most many times.  Here is how he recounts the experience of a family with small children going through the harrowing process:
 
"Inside the house, the movers found five children.  Tim [one of the movers] recognized one child as the daughter of a man who used to work on the crews.  It wasn't uncommon to evict someone you knew.  Most of the movers lived on the North Side and had at some point experienced the awkward moment of packing up someone from their church or block.  Tim had evicted his own daughter.  But this house felt strange.  Dave asked what was going on, and John explained that the name on the eviction order belonged to the mother of several of the children.  She had died two months earlier, and the children had simply gone on living in the house, by themselves."   (Broadway Books, 2016)
 
Does Sarasota face a serious problem in providing affordable housing to local people who are homeless, disabled, or one paycheck away from homelessness? What is the scale of need?  On January 10th, a group of people from St. Boniface attended a S.U.R.E.-sponsored meeting at First Congregational Church to hear Michael Anderson, an expert on affordable housing issues, talk about the circular nature of the problems that stem from not having a stable roof over your head: neighborhood decay; erratic schooling and dropouts; family disintegration; job loss; addiction and resort to crime.
 
The reverse, that is, reliable housing, produces equally dramatic results: neighborhood improvement; family stability; improved schools; lowered crime; a magnet for new business.
 
At our meeting, S.U.R.E. leaders reminded us that Sarasota has 14,800 households that are only one paycheck away from homelessness.  Some of the deeply rooted problems that contribute to homelessness, like racism, social inequality, and good-paying jobs, are on S.U.R.E.'s agenda, though they often seem intractable not only here but around the country.  S.U.R.E. believes we can begin to peel away at that onion of neediness by focusing on ways to make Affordable Housing available, which would make life better for the clients, while simultaneously contributing to economic development.
 
Mr. Anderson is a national resource when it comes to conceiving ways to make Affordable Housing a reality.  Apart from the morality of the problem, the next most important issue is money.  How could affordable housing be made available to the 14,800 Sarasota households that need it?  As long ago as 1973, according to Anderson, the federal government decided it was not its problem, so the work of finding a solution devolved to local communities, businesses, foundations, contractors, and faith groups, such as S.U.R.E.  If in a city such as ours, these interests were combined into a Housing Trust Fund, the community would have a funding source that was dependable and enduring.
 
Anderson is an impressive go-to guy on Housing Trust Funds.  With his help, Hillsborough County has drawn up a Trust Fund plan, which hopefully will soon be made available to S.U.R.E. as a model.  The city of Miami, as well as 770 other places around the country, including 47 states, also have housing trust funds.
 
When Anderson, as well as Ryan McBride--the recent head of S.U.R.E.--were asked what we might do as 19 individual congregations, they suggested that we begin by learning as much about the problem as possible.  Help to generate enthusiasm locally for a Housing Trust Fund, learn about the cost of homelessness to individuals as well as communities, and in various ways let our community leaders know we are alert to the magnitude of the problem.  There are many ways to create Affordable Housing, through acquisition, new construction, rehabilitation, and rental assistance.  A good place to begin learning more might be by reading Matthew Desmond's book, Evicted, and The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein.  Importantly, we hope to share our ideas in our parish conversations this month.
Last Published: January 16, 2018 9:35 AM