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Financial Stability

The building blocks for a good quality of life

United Way of Miami-Dade’s Community Plan works in three key areas — education, financial stability and health — the building blocks for a good quality of life. We ask the tough questions and listen to the specific needs of our community.

Then, we work with volunteers – people just like you – as well as community experts to outline the best way to address those needs in several ways. These are some of milestones that the United Way of Miami-Dade has accomplished in those three key areas for our community.

  • 3,318 people received Financial Education and Counseling in the past year and 12,500 people assisted since the Center for Financial Stability’s opening in 2009.
  • 5,000 plus people received pantry or food voucher assistance. 
  • 50,000 individuals served through the local Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP), managed by United Way.
  • $1,259,000 plus distributed by the EFSP to 27 local agencies.

Why is this component important?

  • Individuals and families require food and shelter for the opportunity to live healthy,
    satisfying and productive lives. However, those living in poverty are often vulnerable to
    hunger and poor health and are especially at a risk of homelessness.
  • Areas of concentrated poverty also have marked consequences for the community,
    including high crime rate, low-performing schools and limited job opportunities.
  • Addressing these needs is the first step in paving the way to financial stability for our
    citizens and promoting prosperity in our community.

Key Findings

  • Florida is the sixth worst-ranking state in the nation with regard to income poverty.
  • Nearly 18 percent of Miami-Dade County’s families are living in poverty and struggle to
    meet basic needs, exceeding the national average of 16 percent.
  • An increasing number of families are facing food insecurity. Miami-Dade County ranks
    10th in the nation with 433,000 food insecure individuals, representing 17.6 percent of
    the county population.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps families meet some of
    their household nutritional needs. In 2011, Florida was the highest ranking state for
    SNAP participation with over 1.6M households (roughly 20 percent) receiving SNAP
    benefits.
  • In the past three years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of individuals
    and families that become homeless. Families are the largest-growing segment of our
    homeless population.
  • In January 2013, there were 3,734 homeless individuals in Miami-Dade County. These
    numbers do not capture the “invisible” homeless, who are forced to share the housing of
    others as a result of economic hardship.

What are the challenges?

  • Self-sufficiency barriers. People experiencing homelessness often struggle with a
    variety of legal problems that interfere with their ability to access benefits, employment,
    and obtain housing. Additionally, mental illness, substance abuse disorders, and
    logistical difficulties (such as lack of transportation and an inability to store or retrieve
    personal records) present barriers to becoming self-sufficient.
  • System deficits. Factors that can cause or prolong homelessness can be attributed to
    deficits in the system. These include: lack of affordable housing, lack of space in
    treatment facilities, and difficulties with accessing services.
  • Funding. One of the biggest obstacles in meeting the demand is funding. The Sadowski
    Housing Trust, which was originally intended to provide funds for affordable housing,
    has been swept to compensate for budget shortfalls in non-housing related expenses.
    Using these funds as intended would create an estimated 15,770 jobs, resulting in a
    $1.6 billion positive impact for the state.
  • Challenges to the Pottinger Settlement. For the past 15 years, the Pottinger
    Settlement has served to protect the homeless from undue arrest by police for
    “involuntary, harmless acts” without first offering them an available bed in a shelter.
    Miami Commissioners voted to petition the courts to amend the settlement so that police
    have greater control. Under the new guidelines, police may, among other things, obtain
    individuals refusing help three times in the span of 180 days and seize and destroy
    property left in public spaces.

What Works?

  • Continuum of Care Model. This is a national best practice for providing homeless
    assistance. The continuum creates a framework that begins with emergency housing
    for an individual/family in crisis and concludes with the ultimate goal of permanent
    housing and self-sustainability.
  • Housing First Approach. This approach is used for both homeless and
    chronically homeless populations. The model emphasizes providing housing quickly, and
    then providing additional services as need. The key difference between this approach
    and other approaches is an immediate focus on sustaining permanent housing first.
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