- South Carolina
Faith and Action for Strength Together (FAST) is a congregation-based community organization in Pinellas County, Florida, whose purpose is to train low- to moderate-income residents from diverse congregations to work together to identify root causes of community problems and take action on these problems. Through FAST, diverse people come together to powerfully address the needs in their own communities.
In 2014, over 2700 came to our Nehemiah Assembly at Tropicana field to stand up for justice in our community. Our accomplishments since 2005 include:
-We got our county transportation agency, PSTA, to upgrade many of the bus stops to provide shelter and more safety for their riders, especially senior citizens.
-FAST got the Director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization to create a new, one-number system for senior transportation. This new system, unveiled in March 2006, works with the Area Agency for Aging and allows seniors to speak directly with a trained professional who can help them with their transportation needs. There are over 20,500 seniors in Pinellas County who do not drive and who will benefit from this new system.
Reducing youth arrests
-At the FAST Rally, Superintendent Grego agreed to work with FAST to reduce the number of school based arrests in Pinellas County. We succeeded in getting an agreement between the school district and law enforcement to no longer arrest students in school but instead send students to diversionary programs for the following offenses: theft of less than $300, vandalism of less than $1,000, campus disruptions, disorderly conduct, trespassing, and gambling.
-In the summer of 2014, for the first time ever all School Resource Officers participated in a mandatory training around alternatives to arresting students. So far in the 2014-15 school year, there has been about a 40% reduction in arrests as compared to the 2013-14 school year.
-In 2012 Florida arrested 78,195 youth and 73,371 were for non-violent offenses. Florida arrests more of our youth than California or Texas and we arrest double the percentage of our youth in comparison to New York. A Tampa Bay Times investigation found many children in Florida getting arrested while in school for relatively minor offenses. The state has created a program called Civil Citations through which local law enforcement can divert youth to community-based programs without giving them criminal records. The recidivism rate for this program is only 4%, and it saves over $4,500 per case, yet not all communities in Florida offer this program to their youth. We are currently working with our sister organizations across Florida in the DART Network to pass statewide legislation to expand access to civil citations for thousands of youth across the state.
-In 2005, we secured commitments from the director of the Early Learning Coalition to provide funding for a full-day of Pre-K for any child whose parents are working am make less than 200% of the poverty level. To date over 7,000 low-income 4-year-olds in Pinellas County have been able to attend Pre-K because of this funding.
-In 2014 FAST got a school-wide discipline program, Positive Behavior Supports, implemented in 29 target schools. The program focuses on positive interventions instead of punitive measures, and has already reduced the number of suspensions and arrests given this school year.
-In 2006, FAST secured commitments from all 7 county commissioners to support an affordable housing trust fund. To date, $19.2 million has been allocated to the fund creating 1469 new units. We continue to monitor the progress on the funding for the trust fund.
-When County Commissioners asked voters to pass the Penny for Pinellas Tax in 2007, they promised that $30 million of that tax (3.7%) would go towards the affordable housing land trust. They said they would allocate $3 million a year to affordable housing for each of the 10 years of the Penny tax. However, after voters passed the tax, they did not follow through on this commitment. Because of the hard work of FAST $15 million of this commitment has been reinstated and $10 million will be available to be spent in the coming year.
Drugs and Crime
-Through the FAST Hot Spots campaign, the local law enforcement of the County, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg have, in total, cleaned up over 76 hot spots of drugs and crime in our communities.
– We got the state legislature to enact legislation allowing 4,000 non-violent offenders to attend locally based drug treatment rather than go to prison. It is estimated that this will save the state $92 million in prison costs.
– Got Sheriff Gualtieri to reinstate an in-jail rehabilitation program by funding it directly from the sheriff’s budget. Previously, participants of this program were twice as likely to stay out of jail after being released as inmates from the regular jail population.
-In 2011 Dr. Law, President of St. Petersburg College, responded to the concerns of FAST by creating the Learn to Earn Program. This program created short term, affordable, certificate programs to prepare people for jobs in fields which are currently hiring. Since 2011, 2,170 certificates have been earned in fields such as Orthotic Fitter and Security Officer.
– After two years of work, on August 22nd, 2013, the St. Petersburg City Council voted unanimously to enact an ordinance creating the Construction Incentive Project (CIP). This law provides incentives to contractors working on City projects who hire ex-offenders, disadvantaged residents and apprentices from Pinellas County.
-About 200,000 adults in Pinellas County lack access to affordable dental care. In Pinellas County for people living at 100% of the Federal Poverty Line, which for a family of 4 is a household income of $23,050, most can get covered for only ‘relief of pain’ services – mostly extractions. After two years of hard work by FAST members, in 2013 three dental clinics were added which serve an additional 1,900 per year. In 2014 we successfully got the County Commissioners to allocate $958,000 of reoccurring funding into the county budget for dental care. This will result in 1,600 more people getting access to dental care each year. In total 3,500 more will be able to get access to comprehensive dental care in Pinellas County because of our efforts.
Presently FAST has 38 member congregations representing over 50,000 individual members. We come from all parts of Pinellas County and are comprised of a diverse mix of persons by race, economic class, and religious traditions.
Board of Directors
To be provided
P.O. Box 10421
St. Petersburg, FL 33733
Lead Organizer, Haley Grossman
Associate Organizer, Cari Morales
Associate Organizer, Chelsea Baker
Associate Organizer, Jacqueline Nye