In 2014, PACT began working to get Miami Dade County to reactivate the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. In 2007, Miami-Dade County enacted this best practice program, but for eight years the Program was dormant, Trustees not appointed and funding not provided. Because of our work, the fund was reactivated, half of all funding has been dedicated to families making 50% of area median income, and a Board of Trustees has been appointed. We also got the Board of County Commission to agree to pass a resolution placing $10 million dollars from general revenue into the Trust Fund. Now we are in a battle to make sure this money actually makes it into the budget, as last year only $387,000 went into the Trust Fund.
Within our meetings with officials and experts last year, we uncovered additional, deeper problems with planning and accountability for housing in Miami Dade. Miami has been among the top three cities with the most cost-burdened renters every year since 2007. In order to this, we need an aggressive plan of action that requires the County to work together with other city governments within Miami-Dade.
This past March, PACT clergy and leaders asked Mayor Gimenez to commit to bringing together leadership from the six entitlement cities (those cities that receive federal funding for housing) to create a 5-year plan to solve the affordable housing crisis. Because of our power in numbers, he agreed. This body of leaders has been meeting monthly since May 2017.
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 9,000 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.
This year, our Civil Citations bill, which would have made Civil Citations mandatory for first time, non-violent offenses, passed in the Senate but not the House. We have been negotiating with the Sheriff's association and regrouping before the next session.
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. When we saw that there were no such measures in place, we asked the School Board to submit a comprehensive plan including these measures by June of this year. We received the plan on June 5th.
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, which is now being piloted in 6 schools.
Gun Violence Intervention
After hearing dozens of stories about acts of violence involving guns in the neighborhoods in which our congregations are located, PACT members voted to work on gun violence as our newest issue in October of 2016.
Through our research process we discovered that the vast majority of incidents of gun violence are perpetrated by less than 1% of the population in the area in which the violence took place. Most of the people committing these crimes are not the targets of the resources and programming that our County has dedicated to preventing gun violence. These resources are typically focused on children, and yet the majority of victims of gun violence are young men ages 18-24.
In response to this information, PACT brought together leadership from the Miami-Dade Police Department, the Miami Gardens Police Department, the State Attorney's Office, the City of Miami Gardens, and the Public Defender at our largest assembly of the year this past March. In front of 1400 people, we asked this group to commit to jointly researching 3 proven gun violence intervention programs that we selected. We asked them to choose the one that fits Miami-Dade the best, find funding, and implement it.
Not only did they commit but these leaders have followed through with expediency. Funding has been allocated in the County budget and a Request for Proposal will be released this Fall.
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.
Our leadership training this year includes 7 local training opportunities as well as 4 national training opportunities in conjunction with our partner organizations throughout the southeast.