PEACE to tackle affordable housing issues in Polk, still advocating for crisis mental health care

WINTER HAVEN — About 400 people from 22 churches gathered Monday evening for PEACE’s 18th annual Community Problems Assembly.

The organization, Polk Ecumenical Action Council for Empowerment, selected the social justice issue it will concentrate its efforts on in the coming year — affordable housing and homelessness. And it reported on the past year’s continuing efforts to improve mental-health services for those cycling in and out of emergency care and on earlier efforts to reduce juvenile arrests.

“During 36 house meetings, more than 250 people gathered to discuss issues they are facing,” said Pastor Eddie Lake, pastor of New Bethel AME Church in Lakeland and the co-president of PEACE. Among 13 issues raised in the house meetings, three were selected for the assembly to vote on to decide the coming year’s focus: affordable housing and homelessness, crime and adult criminal records/re-entry to society.

Pinellas County faith leaders tackle youth crime

October 23, 2017. WTSP.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — About 500 people, members of churches or temples in Pinellas County, met on Monday to take on a vital new mission: “Youth Concerns.”

The meeting by Faith and Action for Strength Together comes after eight teens died in stolen cars within the past two years, a timeframe in which 800 teenagers were arrested for stealing cars.

“We’re all concerned about this issue,” Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Clark Hazley said. “It’s sad to see young people dying when it could have been prevented.”

Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem

October 23, 2017. Tampa Bay Times.

ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay’s largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

Hundreds of members of Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST) voted overwhelmingly Monday night to make “youth concerns,” including crime, their greatest worry in the community.

The organization, made up of several local congregations, has advocated for juvenile diversion programs before. But Pinellas County’s teen car theft epidemic, religious leaders said, has left them more worried now than ever.

Citizens Taking The Next Step To Retrieve COPS Report

September 28, 2017. The Chronicle.

A coalition formed since the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) announced it will not release its report on its assessment of the North Charleston Police Department initiated last year, is calling for community engagement to force the federal agency to produce the document.

A coalition of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. (NAACPLDF), the North Charleston Branch NAACP, The Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Community Resource Center last week called on citizens to contact local, state and federal elected officials asking them to push for release of the COPS report.