PACT has worked over the last 18 months to get Miami Dade County to reactivate the Affordable Housing Trust Fund with secure funding and a Board of Trustees. Within our meetings with officials and experts last year, we uncovered additional, deeper problems with planning and accountability for housing in Miami Dade. Through development of leaders, PACT will have Miami Dade implement a strategic plan that collaborates with other municipalities, secures additional dedicated funding streams for affordable housing, and is accountable for responsible stewardship of funding.
During the PACT Listening Process we heard stories from families struggling to afford housing, the danger of temporary homelessness, our elderly challenged by rent increases, young professionals struggling to afford living here, and the daily choices families make on which bills to pay.
Miami has been among the top three cities with the most cost-burdened renters every year since 2007. Over the past decade construction has focused on building housing towers for Capital Flight, for speculation, and for seasonal second homes. We must also build housing to meet the needs of low- and moderate-income families, our elderly, young professionals, homebuyers, and those who live and work in our community. In 2007, Miami-Dade County enacted a best practice program creating the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. For eight years the Program was dormant, Trustees not appointed and funding not provided.
PACT is working with 9 sister organizations to make Civil Citations the default program for children who make nonviolent misdemeanors. Miami Dade County has been effectively using Civil Citations to connect children to prevention services instead of an arrest records. Currently there are 9,500 children in Florida who qualify for Civil Citations and are burdened with an arrest record which limit opportunities for jobs, scholarships, military service, and more! Therefore, PACT is working on statewide legislation to make Civil Citations a default program for all misbehavior youth who do not commit serious offenses. Already, PACT successfully worked with 9 other organizations to pass legislation that allows Civil Citations to be used for a child's first three misdemeanors. Unlike an arrest, the Civil Citation Program reduces recidivism, saves more than $4,500 per case and sanctions youth without giving them a criminal record. PACT found that when youth receive a criminal record without the opportunity to correct behavior, they are likely to get arrested again for more serious offenses and often lose access to college scholarships, military opportunity and housing.
PACT's leaders are working to ensure that the alternatives to out of school suspensions are strong and effective. Specifically, PACT is working to ensure that the alternatives to suspensions are separating children by their grade level; having assessments made for each child entering a center and connecting them with needed services; and using measures of success when they finish their time at the center. There are no measures now.
PACT's work is follow up from 4 years of working on school discipline. In 2011, PACT began its focus on reducing Out-of-School Suspensions when it found that eight of the top ten schools with a spike in outdoor suspensions were also the top ten zip codes with the highest rate of juvenile crime. At the 2012 Nehemiah Action PACT's Juvenile Justice Committee asked Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to reduce outdoor suspensions. During the 2012-2013 school year, there was a 12,000 case drop after the Superintendent was urged to pass a memo calling for a decrease in suspensions. However, PACT was not satisfied and continued to pursue significant decreases and later called for a "Restorative Justice" pilot program. In July 2015, Miami-Dade Public Schools eliminated Out-of-School Suspensions and contracted the organization ESTOPP to pilot "Restorative Justice" in two middle schools, Cutler Bay and Brownsville Middle School.
PACT will train 500 community leaders this year to engage their community, identify community problems, research solutions, and negotiate with officials. All of PACT's work is led by grassroots community members.