OpEd: ‘Turning the Other Cheek – The Wrong Way’

The proposed AHF campus. Courtesy Glavovic Studio.

Last summer, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation presented the greater Fort Lauderdale community with a bold initiative to address the low-income housing crisis in the city. 

Partnering with a coalition of nonprofit organizations, including the United Way, AHF announced plans to break ground on a housing complex for low-income residents in Fort Lauderdale. SFGN saluted the effort then, and stands by it today.

The LGBT community is a part of our city, not apart from it. There are gay and lesbian men and women in our midst who struggle to pay their rent and meet their needs. We are not all affluent. Our sunny shores radiate opportunity, but not everyone prospers and tans. Some of us get burnt.

Nearly a year has past, and AHF should have been able to launch their project. But the city staff is blocking them, neighbors are blacklisting them, and city officials, including the mayor, are retreating inexcusably and unconscionably. We won’t have it.

These are the toxic effects of the perverted “Not-In-My-Backyard-You-Won’t Syndrome,”— we love you, we love you, we love you — as long as you don’t move in next door.

The truth is that this project is not even “next door.” The housing complex proposal is for a parcel of land near many other small apartments and office buildings, not far from the county courthouse, accessible to public transportation. 

Last week, the city attorney rendered an opinion that the new development should be classified as a ‘social services residential facility.’  This makes the complex a ‘non permitted use.’ I take exception to that finding. In my judgment, it is flawed. While there is a lot of legalese involved, we think it is subject to a broader interpretation, permissible under local zoning codes.

In other words, the city attorney is playing with words to tie a noose around AHF’s neck. But what is being hung instead is Justice.

One day, a vote will be cast in the public record. One day, our elected commissioners will have to put their money with their mouth is. They can’t speak out for hope and opportunity in one breath while denying it with the other.

Over 789,000 Floridians spend more than half of their income on rent each month. There is little left over for health care and insurance needs. Low-income housing frees up money for financially challenged families to use on basic necessities. 

AHF is a leader in health care for our community. They understand good health starts with people having a good home, and a place to hang your hat; to be sheltered from the storm. Common sense dictates we move the project forward, not slow it down. 

A caring community should embrace the opportunity to create a place where less wealthy residents find and secure clean and safe housing. A concerned city commission would endorse the AHF proposal, not run from it.

Over a history of decades, Fort Lauderdale officials disgraced themselves by subordinating the needs of its disenfranchised populations.  We once even had a mayor who encouraged citizens to pour bleach in their garbage cans to discourage desperate people from poaching for food. In 2019, can we please move to a higher moral plateau?

Across America, from NY to LA, we are witnessing a growing tide of homelessness in urban communities. Tent cities are being set up. We do not have to let this happen here. We can lead the way by providing modest accommodations for those who can afford low-income housing.

The employable residents of this proposed complex would have easy access to mass transit and those scooters popping up on every corner of downtown. There will be downtown jobs in the hospitality industry and on the beach within their reach. 

The Fort Lauderdale project is specifically targeted to families, along with assisting low-income and chronically ill individuals, focusing on sustainable rental-to-ownership models. It is designed to be a home, not a hospital.

This project will not hurt Rio Vista, but it will help those who can’t afford to live there. We can’t let the false concerns of the rich deny the legitimate concerns of those not so blessed with such good fortune.

AHF has been working to address the housing needs of the chronically ill for 30 years.  They were once in the forefront of advocating ADAP housing in Miami. This is not their first rodeo. They have fought this fight before. They should be applauded, not accosted.

An affordable roof over your head creates and fosters self-esteem. No matter how small, it gives you something you can call your own. We are all but a step away from walking in soles that are torn. But let our souls be full, caring for those who need help.

What is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right. The city commissioners and our mayor, particularly, should embrace this project. They cannot afford to do less. 

You can’t help but notice that the city of Fort Lauderdale is redoing its Andrews Avenue Bridge. Build one low-income families can cross as well.

We bill ourselves as the Venice of America.  Let’s make sure everyone has a gondola to row and paddle just above the tides, not to sink under them.  

Let’s make sure Mayors who drive Mercedes-Benz Maybachs do not forget the citizens who can’t afford scooters. They are his constituency as well. 

Don’t just give them your voice through lip service. Give them your vote.

Like us on Facebook

  • Latest Comments