The November 12th Immokalee Inter Agency Council meeting welcomed a panel of Immokalee housing experts:
- Susan Golden, Executive Director of Immokalee Housing & Family Services
- Frank Nappo, Chairman of Board of Immokalee Non-Profit Housing, Inc.
- Nick Kouloheras, Habitat for Humanity of Collier County
- Angela Edison, Collier County Housing Authority
- Michael Puchalla, Housing, Education, Lending Programs (HELP) formerly known as Housing Development Corporation of SWFL
Susan Golden moderated an extremely informative discussion of housing options in Immokalee that centered around rental options and assistance, homeownership, foreclosure prevention and assistance programs.
Collier County Housing Authority
The Angela Edison of the Collier County Housing Authority (CCHA) opened the dialogue by noting that Collier County is unique because there is no “public housing”. She then explained the housing options available that are available through her agency in the County, which are Section 8 Voucher program, and USDA housing available to farmworker families only. Ms Edison pointed out that along with the number of rental units in Collier County decreasing, the cap on vouchers is also decreasing. Currently in Collier County there are 466 families who qualify and are using vouchers to subsidize their rent, with a waiting list of another 450 families who qualify. The wait time is 4 to 5 years to receive rental help.
In farmworker housing CCHA manages 600+ housing units under the USDA in Farm Worker Village and around Immokalee. Approximately 260 of those units have recently been released from agricultural worker status requirements by the USDA. Eighteen percent of the 260 are now occupied, some through a tenant based program in which CCHA is working with Collier County to provide shelter for homeless families and individuals.
Immokalee Housing & Family Services
Susan Golden, Executive Director, identified three properties owned and managed by IH&FS as Sanders Pines, Timber Ridge and Esperanza Place. Though IH&FS does not provide rental assistance they refer and work closely with families who receive assistance through CCHA programs. Some of the rental units have USDA farmworker restrictions; but as Ms Golden noted the shrinking number of farmworker families who qualify parallel the changes in agricultural practices, such as crop issues and mechanization.
IH&FS, in meeting their mission of providing supportive services along with housing, offers their residents involvement in monthly council meetings, family literacy classes, teen programing, childcare and voluntary pre-kindergarten programs, and a community garden.
Habitat for Humanity
Nicholas Kouloheras, Executive Vice President, Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, spoke on home ownership. Since 1978 Habitat Collier has built close to 1800 homes in Collier County with 800 of those built right here in Immokalee. Habitat’s vision is “a world where everyone has a decent place to live”. With an application and sweat equity as down payment for an interest free loan, one can become a homeowner.
Housing, Education, Lending Programs (HELP)
Michael Puchalla, Executive Director of HELP, listed and expanded on the services his organization provides. Those services are: homebuyer education, credit counseling, foreclosure intervention and counseling, help with principle reduction on homes that are underwater, and other resources. HELP also focus on providing links to and advocacy for workforce level housing.
Dr. Frank Nappo, President of the Board with Immokalee Non-Profit Housing, Inc. (IH&FS), concluded the discussion by speaking about the services each of the other panel members’ organizations offers and the difficulty in finding the money and resources to continue to offer these services at the level needed to meet the need; in other words promoting social justice in meeting the basis needs of Immokalee’s families.
Dr. Nappo concluded with a vision of where Immokalee will be 10 years down the road and that is a community that has grown beyond a farmworker village, as the children now in Immokalee schools take advantage of opportunities being made available to them.
Next month’s meeting is Dec 10th and features the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Food Chains Documentary. Join us!
Donna Hardy Johnston, http://familyliteracyimmokalee.org/
Collier County Housing Authority (CCHA), Farmworker Village, 1996 Farm Worker Way, Immokalee, FL 34142, 239-657-3649
Immokalee Housing & Family Services, 2449 Sanders Pine Circle, Immokalee, FL 34142; 239-657-8333, http://www.ihfservices.org/
Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, 11145 Tamiami Trail East, Naples, FL 34113; 239-775-0036; http://www.habitatcollier.org
Housing, Education, Lending Programs (HELP), Wilson Professional Center, 3200 Bailey Lane #109, Naples, FL 34105; 239-434-2397; http://www.collierhousing.org