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St. Petersburg Organization Receives $5M Grant To Ease Child Homelessness

A group of people wearing masks all give a thumbs up.
St. Vincent de Paul CARES/Facebook
Members of St. Vincent de Paul CARES and local leaders celebrate a new $5 million grant to help eliminate child homelessness.

St. Vincent De Paul is one of 42 organizations providing services to homeless families in 24 states. Together, they will receive $105.9 million in funding to help provide food, shelter and support to young families across the country.

A St. Petersburg non-profit is one of 42 in the country to receive a grant from a fund created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

The $5 million Day 1 Families Fund grant was given to a nonprofit organization committed to ending homelessness.

The money will be used to support a new program - No Child Left Outside. Michael Raposa, the CEO of St. Vincent de Paul CARES, said homelessness cannot be eradicated without housing.

"We can move it, we can shift it, and we can pretend it doesn't exist, that the only end homelessness is housing. And we as a community have to let go of our fear of looking poverty in the face."

Over two years, the program will target 400 families — including about 1,000 children — facing homelessness in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties and get them into stable and permanent housing.

“We are going to be changing the trajectory for hundreds and hundreds of children in our school system who are struggling; and poverty and homelessness is at the heart of what we work for every day in the city,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Affordable housing was already an issue before the pandemic, but job losses have exacerbated the problem.

“We as a community have to let go of our fear of looking poverty in the face. Every time we stop at a stoplight, we break eye contact with the person asking for money. Every time a homeless person approaches us and we look the other way, it means that we're afraid to look at them. Not that they're afraid to look at us. And the solution is to solving poverty, not solving homelessness," Raposa said.

"Homelessness is just a symptom of the greater of our community, which is poverty. The No Child Left Outside program is only the beginning. It is only the beginning as we work to house over the next two years, 400 families on both sides of the bay.”

St. Vincent de Paul CARES is one of 42 nonprofits across the U.S. to receive the third annual Day 1 Families Fund grants, as part of a continuing commitment by the Day 1 Families Fund to help end homelessness for families. The Day 1 Families Fund issued a total of $105.9 million in grants this year.

To select these organizations, the fund worked with an advisory board of homelessness advocates and leaders whose expertise spans housing justice, racial equity, direct services, homelessness policy, equity for Native American communities and anti-poverty work.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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