RJ Visits Miami/Dade Housing Authority

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At the end of June, personnel from RJ and the CHA attended the convention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Miami and took the opportunity to visit the public housing authority for Miami, the Miami/Dade Housing Agency. The attendees were RJ Editor-In-Chief Ethan Michaeli, RJ Intern Brenda Alvarez, the CHA representative to the Latino Community, William Velázquez, and myself.

We were cordially received by the executives of this agency. We had the pleasure of meeting with the executive personnel, who included Miami/Dade Housing Agency Executive Director Rene Rodriguez; William Calderin, resources specialist for the elderly community; Tawana Thompson, in charge of the Family Self Sufficiency program; Sara McLeod, Public Information Official; and Alicia Diaz, President of the Residents Association of Haley Sofge Complex.

The purpose of our visit was to look for some new ideas, to see the programs of the Miami/Dade Housing Agency at work and to compare them to with the programs of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Bill Velázquez spoke to the executives of Miami/Dade about the lawsuit that the Hispanic community leaders in Chicago made against HUD and the CHA so that the Hispanic community would have more information about the activities of the agencies and that they would have bilingual personnel in their offices.

Alvin Moore spoke with us about the positive involvement of the Latino residents in his agency. I was surprised to see these residents so happy and proud of their housing and I could see the brotherhood that they have and how nice and clean they keep their community.

Rodriguez told us that their goal is to attract different races to public housing other than African Americans.

“We give a lot of information to elderly people through the radio and the same information gives us a positive outcome,” said Thompson. “We have 10,888 units of public housing and the Section 8 Program has 15,000 units.”

Rodriguez said that he would like to have a newspaper like the one for the CHA residents but that their residents are not as sophisticated like the ones in Chicago because their major problem is illiteracy.

“The State of Florida had approved the ‘Welfare to Work’ program a year before the federal government and as a result of this, people that can read have been moving out of public housing. Another thing that people do not see is that sometimes elderly residents are raising a second or third generation family member and they are often times the only ones that are willing to work.”

Velazquez said that there is a consent decree with the Latino Community of Chicago that requires the creation of a list exclusively for Latinos for the Section 8 Program. The 15,000 applications on the list contain the names of people who would have been eligible for the program since 1974; these people should receive certificates for the program in the next four years. Velázquez explained that now the barrier that the CHA needs to overcome is the need for information directed towards the owners of the buildings, since these people are sometimes afraid to rent to people in these programs. This program should work better and faster now thanks to the new personnel of the Section 8 Program who are dedicating themselves to informing building owners.

Rodriguez commented that the tallest building of the Miami/Dade Housing Authority is 13 floors and that in the family public housing communities administered by the agency, 90 percent are African-American.

Fifty percent of the community participants in the Section 8 Program are Latino, and 80 percent of this community is Cuban; the rest are from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The program is currently changing because people are resolving their status, resulting in the number of years for families in public housing is 10 to 15 years. The 45 percent reduction in crimes related to drugs is due to the “One Strike Policy.”

The Haley Sofge Community

The residents of the Haley Sofge community have a very nice beauty salon and from what we saw, they have good clientele. They also have a small supermarket in their own community, so that everything is at hand and they do not have to buy out of the community.

We went to the lunch room where they had a gathering of elderly people. They were very well dressed and happy, maybe because it is rare that they have visitors from out of state. I too felt happy to see them enjoy our visit. When I was giving them my short speech, I could see how attentive and respectful they all were. When I finished speaking, I turned my attention to one of the elderly audience members who was looking directly in my eyes and I thought: That mind must be an encyclopedia that holds years of experience and I know it could be utilized in our time.We did not know, as fans of the Chicago Bulls, how many followers they have in Miami. These people are Bulls Fans. When we went to say good-bye, I stretched a hand in friendship and cariño but they said “not like that, you have to give us a kiss.” That was how we said good-bye to these wonderful people.

Thank you our Miami friends. The Residents’ Journal and the Chicago Housing Authority say “¡Adios!”

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