Dreamed last night of Dennis Monroe, who was the catcher on our little league baseball team. I was one of the team’s pitchers, and the first baseman when I was not pitching. In the first dream, Dennis was trying to link up with me. In the second dream, he was homeless in Key West and I was trying to help him acclimate to that, even as I was having trouble acclimating to my own surroundings.
Another dream featuring a man who had worked in my father’s company seemed related to the Dennis Monroe dreams, by reminding me of when I was homeless and living on the street, and then was a client in the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC) in-residence homeless rehab program, when I ran for mayor of Key West in 2003, and, as I recall, came in dead last. I ran because FKOC’s president and CEO Father Stephen Braddock and Key West Planning Board Commissioner Bill Verge asked me to run, and they gave me the filing fee so I could enter that race.
When I finally woke up this morning and crawled myself out of bed and went online searching for something that might fit those dreams – voila! – it was right there on the front page of the Key West Citizen (www.keysnews.com): FKOC has just lost a substantial amount of HUD funding and is appealing to try to get it reinstated.
FKOC provides in-resident rehab shelter programs for homeless men and women with clean urine – no alcohol or other drugs (unless prescribed by a physician).
When my lady Kari Dangler, above, was in the Stock Island jail last year, because of probation violation (she was not supposed to drink alcohol), Sam Kaufman asked me if there was anything he could do to try to help Kari? By and by, I asked Sam, who is my lawyer and a good friend, and Chairman of the Board of FKOC, if he could look into Kari being able to leave the jail and enter FKOC’s program? Sam made some inquiries, said it might be possible if Kari only had one aggravated assault charge, which was all she had. So, Kari’s JIP (Jail Inmate Program) counselor began talking with FKOC about receiving Kari. But it never went anywhere.
Kaufman, left. Braddock, right
By and by, via email, I appealed directly to Steve Braddock, and he replied FKOC had a very long waiting list. Kari told me she was hearing in the jail that FKOC was accepting clients who had just arrived in Key West, instead of putting them in line behind local homeless and jail applicants. Kari was not accepted into FKOC, and when she was released from the jail last December, on probation, on the condition she not drink alcohol, she went straight to living on the streets of Key West again.
From time to time, I wrote in posts at goodmorningkeywest.com that people who had a chance to help Kari, but did not, would experience karma. In the day before yesterday’s LIGHTNING – impersonal and personal jack-off variations of sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me B.S. post at goodmorningkeywest.com, I wrote (just today I put one paragraph in bold):
“I said Kari was mostly over her colon surgery and faced moving out that day of the church where she was being allowed to recuperate, and living on the street again… Kari was banned for life from KOTS, Key West’s homeless shelter, meaning Kari would be sleeping in the wild at night, again, something no woman ever wants to do in Key West, if she is still in her right mind.
“Besides the usual predators – mosquitoes and other bugs; mice and rats; inclement weather; harassing police officers; people out walking their nosy, or aggressive, dogs; people who enjoy harassing homeless people, or worse – homeless women endure homeless and non-homeless men hitting on them, or worse.
“Three days ago, I prayed in the name of the Christ for a will of God intervention into Mike and Patti Jo Tolbert, Jay Stephens and the other Tolbert female disciple; KOTS; the city mayor and six city commissioners and city manager and police chief and his entire police force; the sheriff and all of his deputies and jail staff; any and every person who had dealings with Kari Dangler after she moved to Key Largo many years ago; and myself.”
After reading the Citizen article below, I thought, if I were Sam Kaufman, Steve Braddock and FKOC, I would put bringing Kari Dangler into FKOC’s program at the very top of my to do list. I also would be wondering what else might lie in store for FKOC, if I don’t do that? Steve is an ordained Catholic priest; he knows very well the Lord works in mysterious ways. I told Sam and Kari told FKOC she has done well writing grants a non-profit her her boyfriend and she started on Key Largo, to take care of elders and disabled people, and could do that for FKOC.
Agency appeals HUD funding denial
BY SCOTT UNGER Key West Citizen
The budget for the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition has been slashed by more than $137,000 in federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The FKOC has appealed the cuts and will have to wait at least 45 days for the results. Officials from FKOC say the cuts will present major problems for their programs. “How can we afford to provide housing if we’re not provided the funding that we’ve relied on for 15 years?” asked FKOC board chairman Sam Kaufman. FKOC offers transitional and permanent housing programs at its facilities at Poinciana Plaza and both were subject to major cuts when HUD published the results of funding requests earlier this month.
Funding requests from each care provider are submitted to the county Continuum of Care, which scores each project based on a series of criteria. Each county’s CoC then passes the results along to HUD, which uses its own criteria to grade each county as a whole and then allocates funding based on scores. “We don’t know what we’re going to do. We have big concerns about how this happened,” Kaufman said. “This is a process that the (Monroe County) CoC has been in charge of handling year after year and I don’t think the CoC is taking appropriate ownership of this problem.”
The the FKOC appeal alleges the Monroe County Homeless Services CoC “inadvertantly omitted” its renewal project but Monroe County CoC Board Chairman Scott Pridgen said that is not true. “We had seven providers and we submitted all of the requests,” Pridgen said. “I hate to see what I’m seeing with the blame game. We did everything that we were supposed to do based on the guidelines from HUD.” Pridgen said the HUD criteria led to the 66 percent reduction in funding to the FKOC transitional program and the relegation to Tier 2 funding for the groups permanent housing program. “FKOC is very critical to the community; it just didn’t score well on HUD’s overall objectives,” Pridgen said. “HUD cut funding projects that did not target chronically homeless permanent housing and housing first programs and it’s unfortunate.”
Housing First is an approach in which housing is offered to people experiencing homelessness without preconditions (such as sobriety, mental health treatment, or a minimum income threshold) or service participation requirements and in which rapid placement and stabilization in permanent housing are primary goals, according to the HUD website. The FKOC’s programs require members to participate in rehabilitation and work programs, as well as submit to drug tests.
Housing first programs are difficult to implement in Monroe County because of the lack of affordable housing for everyone, not just the homeless, Pridgen said. “If we as a county put (housing first) as a priority over affordable housing and you have someone who is working three jobs and we implement housing first where someone has a barrier such as alcohol abuse, it makes the equation even more complicated to deal with,” Pridgen said. “We don’t have any vacant property that is just sitting around that we can use for housing first. I’m hoping that HUD will reconsider Monroe County as unique in the sense that we don’t have a way to transition people into permanent housing.”
Although FKOC’s transitional clients achieve permanent housing 85 percent of the time, it is the amount of time that is counting against the programs, Pridgen said. “HUD wants to see counties working to provide permanent housing quickly, quickly being the key,” Pridgen said. “If you offer housing first within your county, you will score well. The programs that are poorly scored are those that take a long time from the streets to permanent housing. Unfortunately, FKOC’s is a transitional program.”
The FKOC appeal called the funding for the St. Theresa permanent Housing project (which is slated to receive $79,209) “unconscionable,” but Pridgen said it was allocated that money because it will be one of the only housing first options in the county. The St. Theresa project proposes to serve five individuals, whereas the FKOC serves more than 125 people at any given time. However, construction, staffing, utilities and other costs are included in the project’s overall budget. “You don’t divide it up by the number of people,” Pridgen said. “These programs are not equated dollar for dollar for individuals because these programs are very different. Not only are you building a facility but also the services that go along with that.”
Despite the setbacks, FKOC Executive Director Stephanie Kaple is optimistic about the group’s appeal. “We’re working closely with Congressman (Carlos) Curbelo’s office and believe that with the combination of the office and our appeal we do have a good chance of this being resolved positively in our community,” Kaple said. The appeal process usually takes up to 45 days but this year could take longer due to the large number of appeals nationwide, Pridgen said. Funding for all programs will be frozen until a ruling on the appeal comes down from HUD.
The Monroe County CoC fully supports the FKOC appeal but is unsure HUD will go against its current allocations. “FKOC’s program is critical to the overall community,” Pridgen said. “We have to follow HUD’s procedures for their appeal and wait and see if they will reallocate funding for FKOC’s project and we hope they will because it is vital for our community that they do.” “I’m hoping that if we’re not able to win the appeal, that we look at how do we change and modify our consolidated plan to match the goals of HUD and that’s going to require the mayor, city commissioners and everyone to get involved with the CoC at all levels.”
I say FKOC’s approach is correct. Homeless people who can produce clean urine should be helped first. And they should be required to get jobs and help pay for their free, or cheap, housing if they are able to work. You can be sure putting actively using homeless addicts into free housing is a very good way to make sure that housing goes into disrepair faster than if the tenant is clean and sober. You also can be sure putting actively using homeless addicts into free housing flat out subsidies and encourages them to continue their habit(s).
Many homeless addicts use more than one drug. Booze is their first choice, but the very dangerous spice is really popular now, as is marijuana, and many pharmaceutical drugs. Homeless addicts who receive monthly checks – Social Security, Veterans Administration, retirement, family gifts – use that money to support their habit(s). They sell their food stamp cards for 50 cents on the dollar, to non-homeless people, to support their habit(s). They continue doing that if they are given free housing.
In Key West, homeless addicts can get free food at the soup kitchens and local food banks. They have a free medical clinic and a free psychological counseling clinic and a free get identification and job search clinic. They can get clothes and blankets cheap, or free, from the Salvation Army and other clothing pantries. House them nights in the city’s free homeless shelter on Stock Island, next to the sheriff’s headquarters and jail.
Give free or subsidized housing to homeless people who are not drinking and using other drugs. Maybe that approach will incentivize homeless addicts to get clean. And maybe not. But it won’t support their habit(s).
Moving laterally in today’s Citizen, my interjected uninvited thoughts in bold italics:
EDITORIAL BOARD: PAUL A. CLARIN/PUBLISHER KAY HARRIS/ EDITOR ROBERT CINTRON JR. KEN DOMANSKI TODD GERMAN JENNIFER HULSE W. ANN REYNOLDS
Deja vu all over again
Regressive. Problematic. Capricious. All those adjectives and then some apply to the recent proposal of the Monroe County Commission to impose a “sin tax” on the sales of cigarettes and alcohol. Let us “count the ways” that this is a poor idea, albeit promoted on the basis of good intentions.
First and foremost, we should look closely at what has happened in other states when “sin” taxes were imposed to raise money for social causes. In virtually every example, when the state’s tax revenues hit a snag, funding for the supposedly tax-dedicated social cause was scooped up to deal with the financial shortfall. And guess what, it is never restored to its initial level. We have that same situation going on in Florida right now as, in 2014, voters approved a constitutional amendment designed to dedicate a third of the net revenues from excise taxes on documents to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund aimed at various environmental conservation measures. Only two years later, the intent has been abrogated and lawsuits have resulted charging the legislature with using Amendment 1 funding for routine operating expenses rather than environmental land acquisition.
That law itself is not the problem. The problem is criminals in the state legislature. Why use civil lawsuits? Why not use criminal prosecutors to put the law breakers in prison?
Florida once before had a sin tax which was repealed in 2007 because it was so problematic. One could predict again that the collection and compliance of a tax on wine, beer and spirits would be challenging to say the least as it was in the earlier statewide experience. The cost burden on restaurant and bar owners, as well as convenience stores, to collect and process the tax would be overwhelming and punitive. In addition, would a tax on cigarettes just drive more people into vaping?
Cigarettes are carcinogenic and fortunately, the smoking rates in our nation have decreased enormously over the last 20 years. We will agree that heavy cigarette taxes have played a role in diminishing smoking. But nicotine, which is very addictive, can be obtained via vaping and thus avoid the carcinogenicity of coal tars in cigarettes. Would we tax vaping devices? Are they “sinful”? Nationwide there are now major efforts to put a tax on sodas in an effort to curb the significant obesity problem that exists. Should the county sin tax extend to sodas? Or any drink with sugar?
How about let’s cut to the chase here? How about just saying what is true? Booze and tobacco are legal narcotics, which wreak terrific damage in people who use then, and in the case of booze, wreaks terrific damage in families, businesses, and on roads and highways. View the sin tax as insurance, funded by the sinners to help defray the HUGE cost – medical expenses, property damage, human mental and emotional anguish, death – caused by just these two drugs. How about looking at the sin tax as an alternative to making these two legal drugs illegal, carrying prison sentences for their use? Right, that’s never gonna happen. So, then, why not use that’s never gonna happen to decriminalize all illegal drugs and tax them to make the users pay for the damage they are wreaking to themselves, their families and society?
Then let’s think about regressive taxation, which a tax on cigarettes and alcohol would definitely be. People from high income levels smoke the least and have lower levels of alcoholism. Thus a sales tax increase of any sort penalizes lower income groups the most. The simplistic notion that tourists would pay for most of it because they go to our bars and restaurants does not negate the regressive tax impact on our low income residents.
I happen to know for a fact that not all that long ago, if not now, one of your editorial board members was binge alcoholic; out of that board member’s own mouth I learned that. I happen to know for a fact that a past mayor of Key West was an alcoholic. And a county commissioner really likes the sauce. Most of the people I know in Key West know cocaine and other exotic drugs, legal and illegal, are commonly used by the rich, as is booze and marijuana. On page 3-A of today’s Citizen is a blast from the past article about a 15-year-old kid selling crack cocaine out of his butt crack in Bahama Village. It saves local, state and national governments a heap of money to legalize drugs of all kinds, and it makes those governments a great deal of money to tax those drugs and use the tax revenues to pay for things that help society, such as …
Of course the social service groups the County Commission would choose to be the recipients of the proposed sin tax are undoubtedly worthy organizations and deserving of support. But a strong case can be made that we taxpayers also have the right to choose the organizations we wish to contribute to — and contribute we do in Monroe County. Our donations are currently building a new SPCA facility, pouring tens of thousands of dollars each year into our churches, AIDS help, the Key West Art and Historical Society, the American Red Cross and on and on. There are literally dozens of outstanding nonprofits doing incredibly fine work in our county. But one despairs at the horse-trading bound to occur with a multi-million dollar dedicated sin tax stream under the jurisdiction of the County Commission. In some ways it may be a much fairer and more transparent process to allow these organizations to make their cases for donations directly to residents of the Keys. Direct donations certainly save money that would be used to collect and enforce the regulations involved in a sin tax.
Reads like the local chambers of commerce, grocery stores, convenience stores and liquor stores wrote this so-called editorial.
Finally, have our county commissioners and county staff looked carefully for efficiencies and savings in the current county budget of almost $80 million? Surely savings could be found that could augment the current nearly $2 million allocated by the Human Services Advisory Board and also head off further property tax increases. We’re simply not convinced that this has been thought through any more rigourously than the already doomed firefighter sales tax proposal in January. It appears that one or more commissioners are desperately seeking ways to fund social services, without ever naming what social services they think are not currently being funded adequately. Nor have they explained why they feel the need to raise taxes on our already over-burdened, over-taxed populace that is already feeling squeezed out of the Keys by the high cost of, well, everything. Higher taxes should only be used to fund essential services, no matter how well intentioned the proposal may be.
Er, this very editorial board championed the City of Key West to use its share of the Land Authority’s funds to buy Peary Court so people earning $90,000 a year would not be displaced.
The Keys don’t need to fund any social services through taxes or fees, especially ones that seem to hit those with low incomes the most. The commission needs to do more with less like those they represent are having to. Just a thought — why not consider lowering taxes as a way to directly affect and benefit those needing social services instead of just giving more money to agencies and their staffs?
Just a thought – why not local employers pay their workers a living wage, so they won’t have to rely on social services? You rich folks on the editorial board need brain transplants.