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Broward Business Leaders Talk Homelessness And How Tax Reform Could Impact Local Resources

In 2016 alone, The Broward County Housing Council counted more than 2,300 homeless people living inside county lines. 

So, the civic and business group Tower Forum, in Fort Lauderdale, hosted a panel for local business people to get a glimpse into what’s being done at the county level to solve homelessness, especially in Downtown Fort Lauderdale. 

But it was the timing of the panel that held a particular relevance: If the new federal tax reform plan passes and goes into effect, resources like Section 8 housing and Housing and Urban Development - also known as HUD programs - at Broward’s local level will be impacted, according to one panelist, Michael Wright.  

“Without all of that funding at the federal level, it’s all gonna get pushed to the local level because folks still need the assistance,” Wright said.

Wright is an administrator for Broward’s Homeless Initiative Partnership. He made up the panel alongside Fran Esposito, and Debbie Perry. Esposito is the CEO for Broward Partnership, which runs the county's  Central Homeless Assistance Center. Perry is a Housing Administrator for Henderson Behavioral Health, which helps mentally ill homeless in Broward find permanent housing and medical services. 

The moderator was former State Senator and current Broward County Commissioner, Nan Rich. She also serves on the Homeless Continuum of Care advisory council, which is the entity that manages all federal grant money for homeless services in Broward. 

Rich said Broward’s lack of affordable housing is one of the main barriers to helping more people out of the streets and into jobs that can help them pay rent.

“We’re focused on best practices right now, which is housing first. Getting people rapid re-housing, getting them into housing with support services,” said Rich. 

On Tuesday, the Broward County Commission approved a resolution to partner with the organization Covenant House Florida. Now, up to 24 more beds a day will be funded by the county, for Broward’s nearly 400 estimated homeless kids, teens, and young adults.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, produces WLRN's midday public affairs program, Sundial weekdays at 1 and 8 p.m. Prior to transitioning to production, Caitie covered news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.