Stronger Together Reaching Equality Across Manatee
Many of us want to “do something” to solve problems in our community, but often lack an effective vehicle to do so. We work to address this gap and invite you to join us.
Founded in 2021, STREAM (Stronger Together Reaching Equality Across Manatee) is a nonpartisan, grassroots organizing group uniting faith communities to answer the call to seek justice and solve critical community problems in Manatee County. Our name STREAM reflects our vision of a community where justice flows like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:24). We believe “loving our neighbor” means standing up and acting to provide fairness and justice for all.
Unique to our approach is a focus on direct action to address the root causes of problems. We do not provide charitable services (often a temporary fix). STREAM works to create long-term solutions by changing problematic policies and systems that are significant drivers of poverty and injustice. Our current priority issues are affordable housing and criminal justice reform.
We currently have 15 member congregations with diverse religious, socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds and who come from all parts of Manatee County. We are actively seeking new member congregations (and individual members).
Interim Lead Organizer: Jessica Sanchez
Fighting for a second chance
In Fall 2022, STREAM held a widely publicized press conference in which we called on Manatee County officials to implement a proven pre-arrest diversion program. We believe that folks in trouble for first-time, nonviolent offenses deserve the opportunity to learn from their mistakes rather than be branded with a permanent arrest record and barred from higher education, military service as well as employment.
Implemented widely in Florida for juvenile offenders, civil citations offer an opportunity to get on the right track. Communities across Florida have arrested 30,000 fewer children through use of these programs, and we believe this can be applied to adults as well. It’s time to be smart on crime, not just tough on it.
What we do
Our Current Campaigns
At our founding convention in November 2021, STREAM selected two priorities to work on: affordable housing and criminal justice reform. We then held a series of house meetings, listening to hundreds of people from across our community, about the concerns they have for their families and community.
Participants in house meetings shared many stories about the lack of affordable housing in Manatee County…
Teachers worried about impact of homelessness on their students’ learning
Coworkers concerned about minimum wage colleagues who can’t afford rent
Friends worried about people who work but are homeless because they can’t afford rent
Parents concerned about children who can’t afford to rent/buy in the area
Soon-to-be retirees worried about being able to afford housing on a fixed income
Manatee Countians should be able to afford to live in Manatee County, but currently tens of thousands cannot. The wage needed to afford housing in Manatee County is more than 30% higher than the median wage. Housing instability and homelessness are an ever-present problem for our residents – and are continuing to rise. We, as a community, must take action so that our community members have access to housing that we can afford. That is why STREAM is asking our county commission to create 500 new units of affordable housing every year for families making less than 80% AMI.
House meetings also revealed numerous concerns about Criminal Justice in Manatee Country based on experiences of family members and friends…
Inability to find employment due to past arrests (some occurred 40+ years ago)
Being falsely arrested and/or searched for “looking suspicious”
Inability to find employment due to past minor drug arrests (even after serving time and undergoing treatment)
Being thrown into jail for minor offenses (expired car tag) due to inability to pay bail
Going to jail after being falsely arrested and incurring significant legal fees to prove innocence
At our Nehemiah Action in 2022, STREAM won commitments from our sheriff and state attorney to create a new civil citation program in Manatee to avoid unnecessary arrests for first time misdemeanors. Our current work is following up to ensure they follow through on their commitments.