SIGNS OF HOPE AND CARE
You have no idea how hard it is to be confined at home unable to be present at things which are near and dear to my heart. This week was full of those frustrations. Saturday last the Diocesan Pastoral Council met, without me. Monday the Priests Council met, without me. On Thursday, the second phase of our amazing homeless project had a ground breaking without me. I have always known that I am replaceable but think I secretly hoped that retirement or death would make disengagement more palatable.
Things are beginning to look very favorable for our homeless initiative in Hillsborough county, “Hillsborough Cares.” Strong editorial support from the TAMPA TRIBUNE and ST. PETERSBURG TIMES helped make the case and courage on the part of the majority of the county commissioners seem to make the possibility of our “care” for a small portion of the county’s homeless within reach. Once approved, finding the necessary private and public financial backing and seeing what level of support the various political units can provide will be necessary.
On the other side of the Bay, Pinellas Hope is ready to start construction of apartments to be used as transitional housing for those moving toward independent living. Made possible because of government grant money, we will also be able to upgrade the sanitary and common areas of Pinellas Hope I. But there are some dark clouds on the horizon occasioned by budget cuts in the county and community budgets. Don’t hold me for the precise numbers but the Diocese in addition to providing the land gives about $350,000 a year additional through Catholic Charities. Pinellas County provided $750,000 last year and the City of St. Petersburg $250,000. Mayor Baker has pledged the same amount for the coming year but he will soon be leaving office and Candidate Kathleen Ford has been quoted as saying that while she likes Pinellas Hope as an idea, she also thinks that more of the city’s donation should be spent within the city. Candidate Bill Foster in the past has voiced his support for Pinellas Hope but no present firm commitment. The Pinellas County Commissioners have allocated a paltry one million dollars in the budget for all social service programs. What happens if the present commitment of Catholic Charities and the major political units makes it no longer sustainable – it will have to close unfortunately – just when we are beginning to show significant success in helping close to fifty percent of our overnight, tent city people to independent living and self-sustaining life. Finally, each year over 1.2 million is given by countless Church groups who prepare and serve the evening meals and provide much of the food cost. That is real charity.
So some care for the homeless is manifesting itself in Hillsborough and hope which is at an all time high in Pinellas is severely threatened. If you don’t wish to see this manifestation of what Jesus would do, make your feelings and thoughts known to the Pinellas County Commisson and to both candidates for Mayor of St, Petersburg.
That’s the most I can do in my present condition.