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Federal Government Raising the Roof on Florida Homelessness

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 By Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL, Contact
March 2, 2009

On any given night, there are 60,000 Floridians who do not have a place to call home. With the economic downturn, rising foreclosures, and record-breaking unemployment, almost half of them this year were homeless for the first time. The Florida Emergency Financial Assistance for Housing program is out of money and not taking new applications until July, but help is on the way. The federal government is earmarking funds to fight homelessness from three sources, and one of them, the Homelessness Prevention Fund, is funneling more than 65 million dollars to the Sunshine State.

Wilma McKay, executive director of the Florida Association for Community Action, says the help is badly needed.

"With this economic downturn, more and more people have been losing their jobs. These people are now eligible for programs and services that Community Action is providing, and they've been overrun by what were previously middle-class people."

She says that in Florida, which is second in the nation in foreclosures, the number of homeless will continue to climb until government puts people before politics.

"I just can't imagine what it's like to have to live out of your car, as long as you have one, and then I can't imagine what it is to live in those shelters and look for transitional housing. I think we need to put people as a priority."

Critics say the country can't afford the increased funding, but McKay says the country can't afford not to.

Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, says her organization predicted a 34 percent increase in homelessness this year because of the recession, if government did nothing. She says these funding efforts are a step in the right direction.

"These funds should help shore up the most vulnerable people who are at risk of homelessness. It's clear that neither the administration nor Congress wants a new generation of homeless people as the result of the recession."

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