Sarasota Housing Authority Resident's Association

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Public Housing Community Carnival

Friday, June 30, 2006

It was overcast and a few drops of rain fell, but the open lawns behind the Boys and Girls Club were filled with youngsters from public housing!

I counted about 100. Many mothers were near by. Many teens from the churches helped with the games.

The children, from 3 to 13, were having playful designs painted on their faces, eating cotton candy and popcorn, jumping on the blow up jungle gyms, playing basketball, listening to Christian rock music - live on stage, and best of all, more times than not hitting the lever that dunked a game and grinning Bill Russell in his swimshorts into the raised tank. What a good sport!

Three churches Lakewood Ranch Presbyterian, Faith Church and Bethesda Outreach along with the Boys and Girls Club hosted this successful community carnival. I didn't see any Task Force members, but the ABC cameraman was leaving as I arrived so maybe there will be some coverage on the evening news.

The churches and youngsters cleaned up the grounds of the Boys and Girls Club earlier in the week and one of the minister's told me the youngsters enjoyed helping in the task.

I hope I got some good pictures of the celebration to share. My heart swells when these contained children look into my camera and smile, letting out their radiance.

Thanks to Karen, Bill and all those who made this a success!

Bill Russell, Executive Director of the Housing Authority, sits on the "hot seat".

Predictably, he gets "cooled off" with a big splash!

[Thanks to Jude Levy of the Public Housing Task Force for writing this story, and to Karen Curry, Housing Authority, for contributiong the pictures.]

Thursday, July 27, 2006

HA Board Meeting of July 19

Housing Authority of the City of Sarasota
Board of Commissioners
Regular Board Meeting, July 19

The HIPPE program has been asked to move out of Janie Poe community center.

A pre-school for public housing youngsters will be put in its place. This to serve more residents.

Three & four year old children will be provided activites. One year contract signed. If it goes well, program will be renewed on an annual basis. Will start in January, serving 20 to 46 children.

Karen Curry is writing grants for new services. Consulting with residents and resident leaders was requested. Karen will be meeting with Valerie Buchand and Jackie Diaz soon.

A Ross Training Center will be located in the JP community center. They will provide assessment, employment & employment support to help towards self sufficiency and in some cases, home ownership.

Ross will provide a broad spectrum of programs including ESL, adult literarcy, GED, job training and interview skills. Ross will be bringing employers on site. Karen is developing a partnership with Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Coit Architects, Olsted Staffing, and Washington Mutual. The bank will help residents repair poor credit records, set up bank accounts. A daycare facility is planned. Home Depot and Dooley Mack have offered help with structural changes, supplies and manpower to make space usable.

Karen will be meeting with SCAT hoping to amend routes to better serve residents. Karen is working to hire a driver and a vehicle to serve resident needs.

Geneva Mays says she remembers growing up with HIPPE, they provided needed services to children in public housing, made home visits. What about children who cannot get to their new location on MLK?

She remembers residents providing lawn service, lawnmowers were given to them to pitch in. Carmen Valenti reminded her this was a new day - no longer push lawnmowers & lawsuits.

HA exploring contracting with outside companies to provide landscaping maintenance.

Contract signed to paint interiors of 50 Bertha Mitchell units. Community Foundation grant to Jewish Family Service to provide a full time case worker for public housing families in Janie Poe. She will start July 24. One resident suggested contacting Friendship Services about providing a social worker for the seniors.

HA cracking down on illegal parking with towing services. No trespassing City signs pulled down. Still, the police are enforcing the no trespassing ordinance.

Occupancy has gone from 99.3% to 100%. Turn around time prepping units is now 10 days. Record time. 579 work orders were handled in 1.5 days per w/o. Rent collections 100% in June.

Congratulations to Housing Authority and residents. Tomorrow contractor will start painting McCown Towers as well as resurfacing and restriping the parking lot. 17 units in the Courts need handrails and that will be taken care of. For those residents living on the south side of 21st Street, a 6 ft. chainlink fence will be put up to stop drivers cutting through on the grass.

Under New Business: Bill Russell, Exec Director, brought up the survey of area rents to provide new guidelines for those tenants who pay a flat rent. Most residents pay 30% of their gross income on housing, but a few (32) choose to pay a flat rent. The incentive to them was the possibility to make more income from time to time and not have to have to declare income on a monthly basis. The HA felt the flat rents were too low and hadn't been adjusted for some time. Of course, public housing units don't have central air, aren't insulated, don't offer many amenities, so rates were adjusted downward taking this into account. One bedroom elderly units will go up to $500 a mo, one bedroom in family public housing will go up to $400, 2 br to $500, 3 br to $600, 4 br to $700 and 5 br to $750. All residents can opt for the 30% formula.

This new policy will go out on August 1st for resident comments. 31 days to respond.

When redevelopment arrives in the next year to year one-half, residents need to be prepared for moving out into the community. This is why we are bringing in these resident services, Carmen Valenti, HUD Receiver, commented. There's a tremendous need for education, for amongst adults only 50% have a high school degree.

Years ago, HUD thought it would be a good match to put seniors and young disabled families together. It hasn't worked, noted Bill Russell. Now the HA will focus on seniors only buildings in time, through attrition, McCown Towers will be seniors only. Also a security guard is needed at McCown Towers more than just on weekends. Apparently homeless citizens are coming in.

Mary Anne Servian asked that this situation be documented. Since the HA cannot afford a full time guard, Russell will ask Sarasota Police for more patrolling. A new CRT police person will be located in Rosemary. Russell thanked Servian for the hiring. There's also a full time gang officer on the streets. Police have put a substation in a house on the corner of 21st & Dixie.

submitted by
Jude Levy

Housing Redevelopment in Miami

There is an interesting story in the Miami Herald concerning the Miami Housing Authority and development. It begins:

Housing agency is an ATM for developers

In the nation's least affordable city, the Miami-Dade Housing Agency lost millions to developers who built nothing, stranding the poor in decrepit and unsafe homes

The story chronicles a housing redevelopment process that has gone wrong.

It is well worth reading.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Notes From Public Housing Task Force Meeting of July 18

Notes supplied by Jude Levy:

The RFP to selected developers has been sent out. Those who choose to apply will have to have their proposals in by 8/31. Those finalists will be reviewed by the committee; some in person interviews may be scheduled. The finalist will be selected by October 31.

Jean Slocum gave a report on the League of Women Voters Forum on the future of public housing.

A social worker has been selected and will be located in Janie Poe soon.

Valerie's church, Bethel CME, has decided to become involved in a pilot literacy project in Janie Poe. The national program is called "Tots 'N' Teens". Adults will be included, too. Ms. Geneva Mays is helping educate the children in public housing, too. It was suggested that the Literacy Council be contacted to bring programs on site.

Jackie Diaz gave an update on Bertha Mitchell, the Courts & Orange Avenue. She reported less drug dealing in the neighborhood. Carmen Valenti had met with the Sarasota City police about the problems. Thirteen people have been picked up recently going for drugs on the edges of public housing at 21st, 22nd & Dixie. These events don't seem to be reported in the papers noted Valenti. The City put up No Trespassing signs which have been torn down.

A roving tow truck will be coming around evenings and weekends for illegally parked cars.

Jackie Green introduced three women in the Parents Support Group and they all reported their positive experiences in the group. Jackie reported that one mother is learning to read. Mentors help with resources. She's hoping to grow the group from 10 to 20. It is important that the mothers learn how to present themselves, how to come up with solutions. Some topics they wish to cover are self sufficiency, dealing with conflicts. Various speakers will be invited to the meetings. Parents are looking for tutoring services for their children.

The parents meet every Tuesday from 10 am to noon at the SHARO office in Janie Poe. The UU Church has been generous providing mentors, FPL certificates, funds for the residents fund.

Karen Curry will bring the Public Housing Newsletters when it's published to share with the Task Force.

Phone service to the resident office has been turned off for months yet the bill keeps growing. Bill Russell and Jon Preiksat will look at the issue and try to get service severed. Perhaps new phone service could be put under the Housing Authority and the cost taken out of the resident allotments given to the Housing Authority by HUD.

Carmen Valenti mentioned an article about HUD funding cutbacks. I shall send this article separately.

Rent Hikes at Sarasota's Public Housing

Article published Jul 24, 2006 in the Sarasota Herald Tribune

Rent hikes

The Sarasota Housing Authority is considering raising the "flat rents" it charges tenants who prefer not to have their rents based on their incomes.

1 bedroom: From $294 to $400
1 bedroom (McCown Towers): From $294 to $500
2 bedrooms: From $313 to $500
3 bedrooms: From $344 to $600
4 bedrooms: From $375 to $700
5 bedrooms: From $383 to $750

Sarasota public housing rents may rise By DALE WHITE

SARASOTA -- Thirty-two of the 482 households in cityhousing projects could be in for a substantial rent hike, nearly 60 percent inmost cases.

The tenants have the option of switching to a different method forcalculating their rents, which could soften the blow.

Even so, the proposed jumpin monthly expenses comes as a"shock" for Housing Authority residents who paywhat are called "flat rents," said Valerie Buchand, a tenant advocate who paysthat way herself.

Read the full article at the SHT website.