As our fiscal year draws to a close, we wish to thank everyone across the State for their relentless perseverance in the efforts to end homelessness. YOU are making a difference!
The 2017 legislative session was an extraordinary difficult budget and political year, with the state facing a three-year outlook budget deficit and vastly differing philosophical views in the Republican controlled House, Senate and Governor’s office. Many organizations were unsuccessful this session in accomplishing their policy and appropriations requests for their legislative / executive agendas. But for FCH’s strategic planning, precise legislative agenda, local grassroots advocacy, and consultant advocacy in Tallahassee, FCH would have never achieved the successful results we had during 2017.
Since 2013, FCH and Adams St. Advocates have worked together to successfully implement legislative and executive agendas that represent the interests of FCH and Continuums of Care across Florida. This partnership with our consultants has yielded significant results for our organization statewide and is a partnership critical to meeting our organizations number one objective: to end homelessness across the state.
Below are a few highlights from the 2017 legislative session:
- Homeless Lead Agency Staffing Grant – Our organization was successful in securing $300,000 recurring to be combined with $2.7 million in the base budget (recurring funding). Over the past five years, our staffing grant has increased from $0 to $3 million recurring funding. The predictability of the CoCs staffing grant is critically important to serving the homeless population across our state.
- Homeless Challenge Grant – Our organization was successful in securing $1.2 million to be combined with $4 million currently in the base budget. Over the past five years, our challenge grant funding has increased from $0 to $5.2 million. The predictability for challenge grant funding has allowed the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enter into multi-year contract agreements with grant recipients to help expedite the contracting process. The multi-year contracts for challenge grant have been a priority for FCH, and are a priority we worked with our consultants and DCF to achieve. Equally important, due to the predictability of the funding, grant recipients can now plan in advance for partnerships for innovative solutions to end homelessness.
- 2016-2017 Challenge Grant Reappropriation – FCH was successful in building a solid business case with our advocates to convince legislators to reappropriate the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year unexpended balance of challenge grant funding for the same purposes in 2017-2018 Fiscal Year. This was a significant accomplishment as many CoCs simply did not have adequate time to expend the challenge grant funds efficiently and effectively due to contracting delays. The result, without the reappropriation, would have been a loss for all unexpended challenge grant funds during the current Fiscal Year as funding would have reverted to the state coffers.
- Affordable Housing Trust Fund (SHIP/SAIL) – Our organization was effective in advocating for affordable housing trust fund dollars to be used for affordable housing – an issue we must fight each year – opposing sweeps to the trust funds, certainly in tough budget years where the legislature is looking for sources of revenue to fund other programs/projects. This year, the Governor and House originally proposed $44 million of trust fund dollars to be used for affordable housing. Our advocates were successful in advocating on our behalf for our affordable housing priority and the end result was $137 million towards affordable housing. As part of our partnership with Adams St Advocates, our consultants sit on the Sadowski Coalition on FCH’s behalf – an organization focused on supporting the affordable housing trust funds. For information on the Sadowski Coalition, please visit the following website: http://www.sadowskicoalition.org/facts/
- Affordable Housing Workgroup – The 2017 legislature created an affordable housing workgroup with the intent to develop recommendations for addressing the state’s affordable housing needs. These recommendations will be presented to and approved by the board of directors of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. FCH identified the language in the implementing bill and later worked with legislative sponsors to amend the language to include a ‘homeless advocate’ as one of the Governor’s five appointees to the workgroup. With the homeless advocate language added to the bill, your interests will be represented on the workgroup. FCH is currently advocating for the homeless advocate to be the President of the FCH, or their designee. Appointments to the workgroup must be made on or before September 1, 2017.
- House Bill 1121: Child Welfare – The bill made significant changes to child welfare statutes, including amending Florida Statute 743.067(1) to define who may certify an unaccompanied homeless youth. The bill, which originally did not include ‘a Continuum of Care Lead Agency, or its designee’ as an entity who may certify an unaccompanied homeless youth, was amended by FCH with this language. This language ensures all unaccompanied homeless youth across our state are accounted for and appropriate services provided to. The Governor has signed the legislation into law effective July 1, 2017.
We recognize and appreciate all of your efforts statewide in continuing to work toward ending homelessness!
Executive Director, Florida Coalition for the Homeless