Our county leaders, entrusted with taxpayer dollars for delivery of social services, envision our county as great, embracing a mission that emphasizes protecting and nurturing at-risk children, seniors and adults. The real world is vastly different; more than 6,000 individuals and families lined up for Metropolitan Ministries’ help in July. Private agencies intended as safety nets are at the point of breaking.
Up until now, private agencies have been willing to fill the gap in the county’s programming to help stabilize at-risk individuals and families. As a volunteer, I am quickly tiring of my default backup role, due to an indifferent county. Most appalling is when the county refers individuals and families to us for help, consuming scarce, donated resources to pay for services our county should be providing.
Where is the county leadership in all this? Clearly absent, out of touch, and their silence is deafening.
With the exception of an improved Neighborhood Service Center customer experience, hopes are dimming with little help on the horizon for any meaningful relief from those county officials entrusted with taxpayer dollars for social services delivery. The 2010 reorganization and creation of Family and Aging Services, along with the 2012 hiring of promising, experienced staff, has yet to make its impact felt with measurable outcomes.
Rather than helping its most vulnerable citizens, the county’s indifference makes it more challenging to access timely services. No county funds are immediately available for emergency shelter, transportation and other vital needs of those in crisis as newly homeless.
Although housing vouchers are available, housing options are limited to those landlords willing to wait 45 days to 60 days for county payment. Going forward, nothing will likely change, given the lack of discussion on emergency shelter, low-cost transitional and permanent housing.
The county’s strategic plan heralds that the quality of life must be enhanced. Yet it decreased Family Services and Aging budgets for fiscal year 2013 as well as the proposed fiscal year 2014-15.
One leading indicator of the county’s indifference is the growing numbers of homeless and near-homeless individuals’ weary, leathery faces on street corners or aimlessly pulling suitcases with shreds of life’s remnants. Although our county leaders envision a great place for all citizens, today that is only a cruel mirage, a house of mirrors, to those entrapped in a system of indifference and neglect, forced to live on the fringe and isolated from their Hillsborough County community.