Monthly Archives: October 2012

Hitting the streets with the Party Patrol

DCF Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Rob Siedlecki recently observed the Party Patrol, an initiative funded in part by DCF’s federal Collegiate Success Initiative grant for Leon, Hillsborough, Alachua and Orange counties. The patrol goes out regularly and makes sure drinking laws are enforced. 

Rob Siedlecki and Officer John Beeman, Rob's partner in crime fighting

I recently hit Tallahassee’s “Tennessee Strip” with the city police department’s Party Patrol. For those of you who aren’t from the Capital City area, the Tennessee Strip is a main road near the Florida State University Campus with bars frequented by college students.  We were on the streets from 11 p.m. – 4 a.m., which is prime party time. It was even more crowded and rowdy because it was an FSU football night.

When we went into a bar or club we’d walk up to someone who looked to be underage and ask for their ID. We confiscated a few fake ones, but most of the people were over 21. While walking the street we looked for people with red Solo cups that might be filed with alcohol, which is against the open container law.

Officer Beeman impounding a confiscated fake ID

Only one person was arrested that night, and that was because he was belligerent and tackled the police. Everyone else – the bouncers, bar owners, kids (even the ones who admitted to being underage) were polite.

This effort accomplishes four things:

  • Prevents underage drinking
  • Prevents drunk driving
  • Protects kids from getting drunk and wandering into unsafe locations/situations

Recently the Party Patrol noticed a young female student being helped to a car by a young man at a bar.  She appeared extremely intoxicated.  We stopped them to investigate and it turned out the male did not know the student.  The student kept calling him her boyfriend.  In the end, the male was charged with drug charges and resisting with violence.  The student was transported to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.  A few days later she called the police to thank them.  She had thought the person she was going home with was her boyfriend.  When I described the male escorting her, no one she knew, she was horrified.  Our young student is convinced we prevented her from being sexually assaulted, or worse.  

If you notice someone intoxicated or in need of help, please call 9-1-1. If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse issues, please visit our website to find resources in your area.

The Underage Drinking Task Force at the Tallahassee Police Department

Experiencing Poverty

Guest post by Jeanna Olson, DCF Northwest Region community development administrator. Jeanna was one of 23 Franklin County social service employees and residents participating in the Bridges to Circles poverty simulation. Franklin’s Promise Coalition and Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida sponsored the poverty simulation program at the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Apalachicola.

I recently got a personal view of what it is like to experience poverty. According to the 2010 Census, 25.6 percent of the people in Franklin County live in poverty, compared to 13.8 percent statewide.

The poverty simulation breaks participants into family units, and each participant is assigned an age and identity. As a family (we were a married couple with two children, ages two and ten), we were given a list of our bills, some items we could pawn or trade, a title to a car (our family had a car; however, we couldn’t afford gas most weeks and had to walk or purchase bus tickets) and identification. There were various stations set up representing different places and agencies we could utilize, such as a bank, grocery store, food pantry, pawn shop, police station, court and a social service agency.

Social workers and residents participating in the poverty simulation

The program is broken into 15-minute time blocks, each representing a full week. We had to “survive” on what was in our packet. There were scenarios we had to “live” that really made me think about the struggles our clients experience on a day-to-day basis, a day much longer than 15 minutes.

Our day usually began with me (I was working and my spouse was unemployed) rushing to purchase gas and get to work. I was late to work one week and my salary was docked. Week two, I did not make it to work because I had some unexpected bills and was trying to help my spouse get his necessary paperwork for a job he found. Weeks three and four, I had to get walking passes to get to work, because my work paychecks had to pay for the rent. In the end, we never did make it to the food market.

If you have an opportunity to participate in a poverty simulation, I recommend that you take that opportunity. It really opened my eyes to the struggles our clients and neighbors are living with every day.

Franklin’s Promise Coalition hosted the simulation to bring awareness to other community partners and solicit Allies for the next step of the Bridges to Circles program. An Ally is a person living in middle class or wealth who volunteers to be an “intentional friend” to someone working on his or her plan to break out of the cycle of poverty and who has completed the “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ by World” class. The goal is to create a mutually beneficial relationship with someone who is different from you so you can both grow and change and to help participants gain access to tools and resources to help them become self-sufficient.

Four individuals from the Bridges to Circles “Getting Ahead” class were at the poverty simulation. Each reported how much they appreciate the support and guidance they have found in the class and how they can work on their goals and get the support to reach them. Currently Franklin County has 27 individuals in the “Getting Ahead” class.

If you would like to participate in the Bridges to Circles program, please register at Volunteer Franklin.

 

 

 

Floridians Helping Floridians in Crisis

Franklin County residents wait in line to get help

People around Apalachicola Bay are hurting. With the decrease in oysters and fish, boat captains would lose money if they went out to fish. Restaurant owners, like those at Captain Snook’s, use to go through eight truckloads of seafood a week; now they are going through three. The financial situation is so bad that families are without work and food on their table – literally. Crises like this have a trickle-down effect that has an impact everyone in Florida.

Yesterday Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Bill Montford, DCF Secretary David Wilkins, DEO Executive Director Hunting Deutsch, Franklin County Commissioner Pinki Jackel, members of the Gulf Coast Workforce Board and many other  local officials and organizations came together to give food, medical help, job assistance and benefits to the people affected by the decrease in fishery resource.

Florida Gov. Scott listens, talks to Franklin County residents

Gov. Scott listened to and talked with local residents, business owners and the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association for hours while Farm Share loaded residents’ cars with much-needed food.

The main reason for the small numbers of oysters and fish is a decrease of fresh water in the bay. The governor told everyone at the event he is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to address the water flow issue. He is also making sure job training and resources are in the region to build a healthy economy, but also making sure help for immediate short-term needs taken care of – like food, medical help and shelter.

DCF staff help residents sign up for benefits

DCF has been and will continue to be in the community every day. We’ve held resource fairs (the next one is Oct. 12), trained volunteers and hired a temporary employee to make sure residents get the help they so desperately need.

We’re also working with organizations like Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida and Franklin’s Promise Coalition to get help directly to residents. They are also helping keep families together – this is a stressful time and families need each other. It is important to give these families emotional support.

The people of Apalachicola Bay are good, strong, hard workers. Gov. Scott, DCF and our many partners will be there to help our friends and neighbors make it through this crisis.

Florida Farm Share loads food into a Franklin County resident's car

She finally became a participant in her own life

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The following is a survivor’s story as told by her advocate. 

The pair met in a rural village in Haiti. They courted, fell in love and then got married. They were poor and learned to live with the bare necessities. She thought he would be the one to share her journey, but he turned out to be no loving companion.

She stated she was no different from many other Haitian wives who resigned themselves to their lot. She desperately wanted to wake up to a new life, so when he suggested moving to this sacred land, she readily accepted.

They came to the U.S. and had three children. He spoke English. She did not. He had family here. She did not. Her journey was grim and painful. Her living conditions in Haiti were archaic and prepared her well to accept the crumbs he was willing to give her.

He spent money on other women and changed their family portrait by adding a child he fathered out of wedlock. This new life was plagued with doubts. She saw herself as a trapped, limited being. Confrontations with his wrath were abundant. She learned how to read his moods and watched for the crazed look in his eyes. When he displayed his heinous behavior, she refrained herself from engaging because she was not allowed to wedge a word into the conversation. She practiced silence.

There was no net to capture her from the abusive life into which she had fallen. Faith became her nourishment. She endured his abuse in silence. She shrouded herself with shame while he assumed an attitude of superiority and constantly reminded her that she could not speak English. He said that she was a nobody. He cursed at her, hit her, and threatened to practice voodoo spells on her and the children.

She explained that their culture has been strongly rooted in voodoo and the fear of it was real. She once told her advocate, “Once voodoo comes into your life, voodoo follows you, always. It doesn’t stop. You have to pray, pray and pray.” And so, she prayed. She prayed fervently and ceaselessly. Her advocate finally understood why she looked as if she was humming all the time.

She was exhausted with stress and fear and looked aloof. He had sapped out her sense of self-worth. It took her advocate quite some time to instill in her that it was her birthright to live without abuse, whole and unfragmented.

She faced a myriad of challenges such as leaving her abusive husband of 17 years, navigating the legal system, getting food stamps, obtaining Medicaid for the children, finding a new apartment and a new job. Luckily she was documented, but this was still an uncharted territory, especially for someone who did not speak English.

 

A Florida domestic violence center

All of his assumptions vanished when he saw that she had the proper resources to address all the legalities she was facing. He was floored when he saw that she had an attorney representing her and a translator communicating everything in Creole. She was not going to be excluded from the conversation.

The garden at a Florida domestic violence center

Finally this survivor became a participant in her own life. It is exciting to report that she has increased her English-speaking skills significantly, gained employment, and relocated to safe housing where she lives free of abuse; something she never thought possible.

 

If you or someone you know may be the victim of domestic violence, please call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119. More info is available online.