By Cynthia Harris, Special to the Advocate
Why is the City of Orlando continuing to segregate a predominately minority community with social services that would never be allowed in any other community? Is it because citizens are still considered 3/5th of a person for political and human representation?
The City of Orlando, District 5, is economically segregated from the rest of the city’s right to quality of life. We lack adequate housing but are plagued with every homeless shelter known to man except one. We have more than 30 social services that resonates a negative impact or view. We lack affordable quality housing however, it is acceptable for District 5 residents to sleep in the woods, under the 408, in our parks, vacant lots, and welfare hotels when the current shelters are always at full capacity. Yet Fred Clayton and the City of Orlando feel they know what is best for us by shoving another failed experiment in our community.
We lack adequate jobs, grocery stores, and the worst transportation for both able bodied and disabled persons. Daily, homeless residents are dropped off on Terry Street, from both Lake and Brevard counties.
Life is a daily struggle! This is evident by the people we see who are forced to sleep on the streets in our own community. Most of us can barely imagine the reality of living in that way from day to day. Especially when you are a social service agency who co-habitate in our community on a part time basis during the day and return to your mansions and gated community every night.
There is an flagrant social injustice that is happening in our community and because we have limited economic resources, we are left voiceless. We are left voiceless when people we elect who look like us are not for us. We are left voiceless when government establishment tell us they know what is best for us.
How can you tell us you know what’s best, when you do not reside in our community? How can you consciously say you understand when you travel in our community with peripheral blinders via the luxury of I-4 and the 408?
West Colonial Drive is the gateway to our community, why would anyone want to live, work or play in an area plagued with unsightly and unsanitary conditions?
One could say it is easy when the Orlando Union Rescue Mission’s CEO Fred Clayton yields in salary roughly $170,000 per year (this includes benefits) to save us from ourselves in this blighted community. Per the statement of Fred Clayton, “the residents live on property for six months to a year and do not leave unsupervised for the first 90 days.Most have jobs and receive 25% of their income and are required to put 75% of their income in a savings account for their future.”
Ah, that sounds wonderful when you say it real fast, however, what he does not disclose is that organization collects the interest off of the savings of its residents roughly $85,630 according to the 2015 IRS 990 report. I wonder if the residents upon graduation from their program receive the interest upon exiting the program. What is also not disclosed, is that Mr. Clayton so fondly expresses that the Orlando Union Rescue Mission does not accept government handouts. If this is correct then why is the City of Orlando so actively involved in handing our community to you as a charitable donation through our blood, sweat and tax dollars?
In a meeting with the residents, last month, Mr. Clayton stated “it was the only location that the City of Orlando would allow us to go!” How can a millionaire, (OURM), whose assets are roughly $8 to 9 million each tax year, be segregated into our poor community to live among degenerates or as Mr. Clayton stated nonChristians? With that kind of money, the Orlando Union Rescue Mission should be able to reside anywhere in or outside Orange County including near the Mayor in College Park.
Mr. Clayton also stated, “we could build 20 miles outside of Orlando and there would be no opposition,” he said “the reason why so many social services like ours that focus on homeless and the most vulnerable are in that area is that’s where the people we help are located.”
Well in the words of Kevin Costner’s movie, Field of Dreams: “If you build it they will come.”
The right to a safe and secure place to live is one of the most basic human rights, as it is fundamental to enable people to live a dignified life. Why is it such an insistent need to force a homeless shelter in a predominately minority community?
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, but the Orlando Union Rescue Mission is not an uplifting social fit in this community.
Picture yourself standing on the bottom step of a set of stairs, with someone else standing on the step above you. There is just one step between you and the person who was just standing next to you, but if the person in front of you moves up a step, and then another, and then another, they will eventually be much further up the stairs than you. This is what our City government is doing to our community. They are climbing up the stairs of economic quality making downtown the City Beautiful, while continuously promoting poverty and destruction into our community.
In the beginning, you would have had to move up just one step to meet the other person, but now you would have to climb many more to be at the same level as them. If equal distribution were to accompany growth, it should be more like standing on an escalator than a stairs – everyone would move to a higher position, but the distance between them would not change as a result – no one gets left behind. We pay taxes just like everyone else whether you are a convicted felon or homeless person, and as a resident of both Orange County Florida and confined within the City of Orlando WE VOTE TWICE!
It is the opportunities we are given and all the choices we are free to make.
Fair distribution of social services is what is necessary.