Sunday, December 30, 2018
Tom Tracy - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | The Bezos Day One Fund associated with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who attended high school in Miami as well as the University of Florida has awardedCatholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami $5 million towards its homelessness prevention and intervention programs.
The Bezos charity announced Nov. 20 that 24 organizations around the country that are working to support families in need will share in a total distribution of almost $100 million. Most of the grants were for $5 million or less and, in the case of Miami, the money is intended to be used to support programs over the next four years, according to Peter Routsis-Arroyo, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities.
The whole process was by direct invitation and moved along very quickly, said Routsis-Arroyo, who credited Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Miami’s Catholic Charities for a record of community service and integrity that attracted the prize.
“It happened quickly, which is great,” Routsis-Arroyo said. He noted that he was in touch with one of Bezos’ attorneys throughout the process and that there will be a system of regular reporting and accountability to the Day One Fund as to how the funds are applied locally in the coming years.
The grant will allow Catholic Charities to provide additional assistance to families in need of permanent housing through the Housing First Model, a best practice, and will ensure Catholic Charities can address more of its clients’ most basic needs. It also will help to expand supportive services that help families fighting homelessness become self-sufficient.
The funds will support two key areas of Catholic Charities:
- theNew Life Family Center, a downtown Miami shelter for homeless children and families which provides a safe environment for 15 families while they get back on their feet. Children are the central focus of New Life.
The facility was already in the process of moving to an expanded location with room for additional clients, and includes an art therapy program, meals and intensive case management.
“We will probably be expanding the program to 30 units,” Routsis-Arroyo said of New Life. “This will also allow us to add an additional case worker or two: one for rapid rehousing efforts as well.”
- an expansion of Catholic Charities’ rapid re-housing efforts in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Those efforts are in conjunction with the Homeless Trust in Miami Dade and Broward counties, and the Continuum of Care program in Monroe, which is federally funded. The programs help families in danger of homelessness or who are currently homeless and in need of social worker case management.
The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust’s annual “Point-in-Time” census for 2018 shows the number of homeless individuals and families is 3,526 an 8 percent decrease from the previous year although the number of those “unsheltered” in need of housing had increased by 19 persons.
Routsis-Arroyo noted that New Life programing was in dire need of a financial boost.
“This couldn't have happened at a better time,” he said. “We had lost some funding for New Life and while it wasn’t the first time we lost funding we were going to have to start charging rents, so this will allow us to go back strictly to serving homeless children and families.”
The cost of the New Life program will now be covered by the Day One Fund grant “and we will be able to work closely with families and helping create some savings accounts for them,” said Routsis-Arroyo.
He noted that he recently received a letter of congratulations directly from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose stepfather, Michael Bezos, arrived in the U.S. as a teenager via the Pedro Pan exodus in the early 1960s a program that brought more than 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children to the U.S. and was spearheaded by Catholic Charities in the then-Diocese of Miami.
“The (grant) speaks to the history and reputation of the Archdiocese of Miami and Archbishop Wenski, who is nationally known for his work with social justice,” Routsis-Arroyo said. “I think it is safe to say the reputation is that of having excellent stewardship.”
Other Catholic entities that received either a $2.5 million or $5 million grant from the Day One Fund include Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington.
Earlier this year, Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, launched the Day One project which actually consists of two programs: The Day One Families Fund provides grants to nonprofits fighting homelessness, and the Day One Academies Fund aims to create a network of non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities.
In addition to Amazon, Bezos is the founder of the Blue Origin rocket company and owner of The Washington Post. Earlier this year, Forbes declared him the wealthiest person in the world with a current net worth of about $150 billion.
The Day One Families Fund was inspired by Mary’s Place in Seattle, whose motto is “no child should sleep outside.” A small group of experts advised the Day One team in selecting the grant recipients. The Day 1 Families Fund will be awarding grants annually.
“These 24 organizations are working on a number of initiatives that support families in need from emergency shelter and safe short-term shelter for families to get on their feet, to access and support for permanent housing and support services that help families move forward together,” Bezos said in announcing the grants. “We hope these grants provide the additional resources these leaders and their organizations need to expand the scope and impact of their efforts.”
For more information, visit www.BezosDayOneFund.org/Day1FamiliesFund.