As summer has drawn to a close and the beautiful weather of fall is upon us, I reflect on how this year’s summertime in Florida was as heated and full of humidity as I have ever experienced. Sadly, this year’s heat and humidity crossed far beyond just our daily weather. While I would like to simply only celebrate all that is good, I can’t help but take this moment to reflect once again on how the mission of Catholic Charities over the past several months symbolizes how this Year of Mercy opens our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society, and as our Holy Father reminds us “these fringes which our modern society itself created”. Francis said, “Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sister who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to hear their cry for help!” Who is it that has been crying for help over the last few months?
The immigrant and refugee. After a slowdown in refugee’s entering our country earlier this year, we now are experiencing a dramatic rise in the number of refugee’s coming to the Tampa Bay area. In the next few weeks alone we welcome close to 100 refugees’, many from Syria and the middle east. For those reading this I pray you share our faith and belief that we love our brothers and sisters suffering and crying in turmoil across our world seeking a better life in America and we welcome them with love.
The woman with an unplanned pregnancy and considering abortion. Our network of pregnancy centers and the Knights Women Center has seen 150 women since April and the number of women who have chosen life over death for their baby is now 22. This affirms how the choice for life will end the crying and suffering of moms, dads and unborn. This past month, we also had a wonderful open house featuring our new construction of offices and ultrasound space at our Spring Hill office.
The homeless. Housing the homeless is the only way to end homelessness. We are the leaders at Pinellas Hope. After many long months of delays we now have the Certificate of Occupancy for all five buildings of permanent supportive housing totally 76 units for single men and women or couples. This doubles the number of apartment at Pinellas Hope from 80 to 156 units of housing, where we transition close to 200 people from homeless to housing. In addition to housing, our daily shelter numbers are now reaching more than 250 during the summer months, the most we have ever experienced at Pinellas Hope during the summer. Why are the numbers rising? We honestly do not know, but our conversion from tents to Hope Cottages and our reputation for hope, dignity, compassion and professional staffing leads more homeless to our facilities. Our response, we heard the cry of the poor and we now have 12 more Hope Cottages on site at Pinellas Hope and our goal is to raise $1.5M to convert 50 shipping containers into Hope Cottages for 150 people. In addition, 5 new, along with 3 renewals, of Rapid Re-Housing grants have been awarded, including 4 in our northern counties puts us as the single largest provider of Rapid Re-Housing in the Tampa Bay area, where we will eventually re-house 500 homeless people every year.
The elderly. We are proud to share that Sr. Pam and her team continue to hit tremendous REAC and MOR scores with HUD. Our first MOR score reached a “Superior” rating…tops in the industry. With 16 REAC’s averaging scores of 93, our CCCDC operations is the best in the business. Operating incredible affordable housing for seniors is another incredible ministry of service to the needy.
These are just some of our recent accomplishments and the link to my Annual Report delivered to our Board of Trustees at our August Annual Meeting follows: Annual Meeting 15-16
Please take a look at this report to get all the latest updates on our performance over the past year. Included in this report are presentations to the Board on some of our key strategic priorities for this coming year. None of this can be done with the intense passion and professionalism each of you represent. You all are the essence of our Jubilee Year of Mercy. In the midst of our countries debate and turmoil, we rise above it all with compassion and service to those living on the edges of our society.