PEACE

People Engaged in Active Community Efforts

Background

People Engaged in Active Community Efforts (PEACE) is an organization of religious congregations and groups which are working together to solve critical community problems. We are not a service provider, but a grassroots, direct action, multi-issue organization, which has come together to be a powerful force for improving the quality of life in our communities.

Accomplishments

We have had 2,000 or more people in attendance at the past seven Nehemiah Action Assemblies, united in their desire for a more just Palm Beach County. Their presence and the persistence of hundreds have resulted in the following:

 Community ID of the Palm Beaches

On March 30, 2019, after fighting for three years to get this program started, the Community ID of the Palm Beaches was born! We have won commitments thus far from the cities of West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, and Belle Glade to accept the ID (and from West Palm Beach – half of the funding needed for the Program). Coordinated by the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, the Community ID Program issues IDs to any resident of the County who is in need of an ID, to use as a valid, accepted form of identification. In the first four months, over 1,200 IDs were issued.

 Getting Money Back in the Hands of Wage Theft Victims

In 2013, PEACE got the County Commission to pass a Wage Theft Resolution, allocating money to the Legal Aid Society to take on cases of wage theft and creating a special Wage Theft Docket within the court system so that these cases could be swiftly heard. To date, nearly $1.2 million has been recovered for 1,200 Palm Beach County wage theft victims.

Saving our Kids’ Futures

Locally and throughout the state, in partnership with our sister DART organizations, we worked to get Police reducing the number of children being arrested for first time misdemeanors, and instead using civil citations. As a result, this past year 469 children received a civil citation instead of being arrested in Palm Beach County. In addition, in April of 2018, we got a state bill passed that mandates that every jurisdiction throughout the state has a juvenile civil citation program.

 Accepting Consular IDs to Cut Down on Unnecessary Arrests

In 2015, we discovered that nearly 500 undocumented members of our community were being taken to jail yearly for the sole offense of driving without a license. In 2016, we succeeded in getting Sheriff Bradshaw to establish a policy accepting consular IDs (if those stopped for driving without a license can present a consular ID, they will be issued a citation but not taken to jail). In the last three years, this policy saved nearly 600 people from being taken to jail – saving their dignity and saving our system $3 million.

 Glades Jobs to Glades Residents

In January of 2015, PEACE got the Board of County Commissioners to unanimously pass the Glades Employee Incentive Program, which provides a 30% salary reimbursement incentive to employers who hire Glades residents for county projects.

 Establishing a Neighborhood Accountability Board (NAB)

In 2013, PEACE got the city of West Palm Beach to establish and fund a Neighborhood Accountability Board program, which takes youthful offenders and puts them in a research-based program proven to turn their lives around.

 Securing Funding for the County’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund

In November of 2009, PEACE got the county commission to create a dedicated stream of revenue that will waive impact fees for the development of affordable housing. As a result, $2.4 million has gone toward funding 1,138 units of affordable housing.

Current Issues

HOMELESSNESS

The Problem:

Palm Beach has a homelessness crisis.

  1. There are 4,414 homeless children in Palm Beach County (Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County)
  2. In Palm Beach County, 8,210 homeless adults accessed healthcare services in 2017 (Health Care District, Public Records Request 2017)
  3. 135,510 families pay more than 50% of their income for housing. 60,306 of these families are making less than 30% AMI and of those families, 20,323 are senior citizens (Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, University of Florida)
  4. 67,476 families make 30% or below the Area Median Income (AMI) – for a family of 4, this means $25,100 per year (Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, University of Florida)
  5. There are only 19 affordable housing units for every 100 families making less than 30% of AMI (Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, University of Florida)
  6. 42,886 families live in substandard housing – no fuel used, lacking complete kitchen facilities, lacking complete plumbing facilities, or more than 1 person per room (Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, University of Florida)
  7. The Lewis Center, the only central intake and resource center for the homeless, has 66 beds (Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County)

 The Solution / Where we are:

To effectively address this crisis, Palm Beach County needs to dedicate serious funds to both Homelessness and Housing Continuum of Care.

For Homelessness, the county needed to follow its own 10 Year Plan, that expired in 2018, and build 2 more additional homeless resource centers so more people can be served and directed to services. PEACE got the county to move forward with a second Homeless Resource Center, a campaign that included securing $5.7 Million in construction funds, an additional $5 million annually for operating and services, and securing a unamious decision on the location for the center. Our work will continue to monitor this center, during and post construction, and to work towards the third center to serve our western neighbors.

For Housing, PEACE worked to secure $25.5 million for the creation of housing units for extremely low to moderately low-income families and individuals, with $10.5 dedicated to serve the most vulnerable, the extremely-low and very-low income families and individuals. We will monitor this funding to ensure it is used effectively and in a timely manner.

POLICE COMMUNITY RELATIONS

The Problem

Thousands of African-American and Hispanic residents of our county are stopped by police for things like –

  • Rolling stop
  • Failure to signal a turn or lane change
  • Light out or too dim on the license plate, or license plate border obscuring part of the license plate, or sticker in the wrong place on the license plate

We often perceive these stops to be “investigatory” – more about a desire on the part of the officer to criminally investigate, than the reason provided for the stop. In fact, in many stories we’ve heard, a reason is never even provided. Sometimes we are asked intrusive questions– such as “Whose car is this?” or “What are you doing in this area?”

 According to University of Kansas Professor Charles Epp, author of the book “Pulled Over,” these are likely stories of classic “investigatory stops.” In the book, Epp writes –

“Officers making investigatory stops commonly have decided to carry out a criminal investigation before they make the stop; they then identify, or create, a pretext to justify the stop.”

One big piece of the problem here in Palm Beach County is that our Sheriff’s Office and the majority of our Police Departments do not track all of the stops they make; therefore, there is no way currently to track if there is disparity in who they are stopping.

The Solution / Where we are: 

Dr. Jack McDevitt from Northeastern University has years of experience working with police departments throughout the country on a process of data collection and analysis. Common things tracked include –

  1. Each and every stop (not just those in which citations are issued)
  2. The race / ethnicity of the person stopped
  3. The reason for the stop
  4. If a search was done – the reason for the search, and if contraband was recovered

Doing this, we believe, just makes sense. It establishes an early warning system to catch bias, allow supervisors to take action quickly; it establishes trust with the community, because the simple act of collecting and analyzing the data is seen as a willingness to confront potential problems; and where the data shows there is no problem, it reassures the public that policing is being done fairly, and helps protect police from unfair accusations.

At our Nehemiah Action, we secured commitments from three Police Chiefs (West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, and Delray Beach) to attend a meeting with Dr. Jack McDevitt, and to consider a program of data collection and analysis.  Following this meeting, we will work to get other agencies to join this coalition, collect data, and take proven steps to eliminate racial bias in policing.

Contact Us

100 N. Palmway
Lake Worth, FL 33460
Tel. 561-882-0403

Virginia Donnal
Lead Organizer
virginia@thedartcenter.org

Virginia Donnal
Associate Organizer
virginia@thedartcenter.org

www.peacepbc.org