The Florida Housing Coalition (FHC), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, has provided training and technical assistance statewide since 1982. Although advocacy has never been their primary work, FHC supports and convenes multiple groups for advocacy purposes, including the Sadowski Housing Coalition, and more recently the Florida Non-profit Housing Advocates Network. This year FHC worked with both of these groups to increase their engagement on the issue of homelessness in Florida, which has the third highest homeless population in the country. Although other states have been reducing the number of homeless, Florida’s homeless numbers have been increasing.
Jaimie Ross, the president of FHC, credits NLIHC’s 2012 Annual Housing Policy Conference with inspiring her to expand the Coalition’s work on homelessness. The conference included a track on ending veteran homelessness, where Ms. Ross learned about the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness’ Opening Doors strategy and met several key players in national homelessness policy. The inspiration gained from the conference helped FHC take several measures in the past year to increase its engagement with the issue of homelessness.
During this year’s legislative session, Ms. Ross continued her usual work facilitating the Sadowski Housing Coalition, a coalition of 26 statewide organizations focused on ensuring maximum funding for Florida’s housing trust funds. However, this year their efforts included a focus on homelessness. With the support of the Sadowski Housing Coalition, and in particular Florida Realtors, Ms. Ross approached bill sponsors in the Florida House and Senate with the idea of carving out 4% from the Sadowski local government trust fund to create a dedicated revenue source for addressing homelessness. Although the portion of the bill that would have dedicated funds for homelessness did not pass, the legislature appropriated an amount equal to 4%: $3.8 million for the Department of Children and Families for Florida’s Continua of Care, and $200,000 for training and technical assistance.
In addition to their legislative work, FHC released a comprehensive guide for housing homeless Floridians, Homeward Bound: A Policy and Resource Guide. The decision to produce the report was informed by the strategic plan adopted by the Florida Non-Profit Housing Advocates Network, a subset of FHC’s membership that works on issues of particular concern to nonprofit housing providers. FHC partnered with Florida Realtors to produce this 80-page guide, which was released on September 22.
Looking to the future, FHC will continue its work on homelessness in the next legislative session by redoubling efforts to secure a dedicated source of revenue for addressing homelessness, in addition to urging the Florida legislature to appropriate all the state and local government housing trust funds for housing – instead of sweeping it into the general fund. Beyond legislative work, FHC will continue to focus on increasing nonprofit capacity to develop multifamily housing for Florida’s most vulnerable populations.
Homeward Bound is at http://bit.ly/1poacMQ.