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WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 - Working with various Florida stakeholders, the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness & Poverty will launch “Collaborate to Advocate: Lawyers and Communities Working to End Poverty,” an effort to help Florida’s anti-poverty community find and effectively share poverty solutions that work. The luncheon and roundtable program will be held Friday, Oct. 2, at the University of Miami School of Law Alma Jennings Foundation, Student Lounge, 1311 Miller Drive, Coral Gables from noon to 4 p.m.
This is the first of a series of ABA roundtables to be held across the nation for state and local government, service providers, as well as for religious, academic, political and legal communities. According to Commission Chair Ted W. Small, the purpose is to bring people out of siloes of good work and try to address poverty in a holistic fashion at the implementation level.
The roundtable should be of particular interest to Floridians. A report released in July from the Brookings Institution indicated that poverty and homelessness are everywhere in America, but have expanded fastest in the South, from North Carolina to Florida, including Orlando, home of Disneyworld, and the snowbird paradise, Miami.
Among the panelists at the roundtable are: Daniella Levine Cava, Miami-Dade County commissioner; Oliver G. Gilbert III, mayor of Miami Gardens and chair of Miami Dade County Local Black Elected Officials; Paco Velez, president and CEO, Feeding South Florida; and Barbara “Bobbie” Ibarra, executive director, Miami Coalition for the Homeless.
Nearly 50 million Americans now live below the federal poverty line -- $23,624 for a family with two adults and two children — according to the U.S. Department of Human and Health Service.
And a higher percentage of American children live in poverty now than did during the Great Recession. In Florida, 25 percent of children live in poverty; 35 percent of single parent families with children live in poverty; 17.7 percent of women live in poverty and 11 percent of seniors.
“Collaborate” is part of a three-year anti-poverty ABA initiative aimed at removing legal and justice system-based barriers that create or perpetuate poverty. Among programs advocated by those behind the ABA initiative are homeless courts, like the one established in 1989 in San Diego, where one out of five homeless veterans requested help. The courts can be held in local shelters and, to keep from pushing homeless defendants further outside society, they use a progressive plea bargain system and alternative sentencing structures such as life-skills training, chemical dependency meetings, counseling or volunteer work.
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