Leon County has one of the poorest zip codes in the state of Florida. In an effort to address that the county is conducting a needs assessment. Meanwhile, area residents are teaming up to brain storm solutions with community leaders in a series of meetings called the 32304 Prosperity for All Summits.
The County Commission is expected to get the final needs assessment in October. Shington Lamy works with the county. He says the report may help to guide how CHSP, or community human service partnership, money is spent.
“It’s looking at, what are the needs and what are the resources that are out there? Because what we think $3.4 million—we get it, it can’t fix everything, Lamy says." "So how do we use those dollars to laser focus on the gaps?”
But even without the study, one area where Lamy says he sees a clear need is affordable housing.
“When you get into housing it’s amazing the things you can do, you know," Lamy says. "You can put food on the table where you can eat. You can lay your head somewhere and you can wake up the next morning and you can go to work without that worry of where am I going to lay my head at night?”
Lamy attended the latest 32304 Prosperity for All Summit Tuesday. The community conversation hosted by County Commissioner Bill Proctor is aimed at addressing poverty. During the summit, it became clear Lamy isn’t the only one who thinks housing is key. Paula Hill works with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. She says helping people with criminal records get housing is critical to helping them avoid temptations that could send them back to jail.
“If you lived in a crime infested area before you went in and you go back to that society, you’re tempted to do the same sort of behaviors you did before you went in. So if you want to change, you don’t want to go back into the same environment you left. You want to do something different because being put back into that same environment could be a big temptation for someone that’s trying to change their life,” Hill says.
But Hill says it can be hard for someone who has a criminal record to get approved to rent many houses and apartments.
“Once they do a background check and they find out that you’re a convicted felon, you’re going to get denied because they don’t want convicted felons living in their neighborhoods and their housing complexes. Why? I don’t know. It’s just a barrier that we come up against and even though we’ve changed our life, we’re not given a chance to live in a community that’s safe not just for us, but for other people,” Hill says.
She adds affordable housing is important. But it also needs to be clean and safe housing.