Business Monday

CEOs: Local businesses step up in helping the homeless

Dr. Alejandro Badia is an orthopedic surgeon who leads a network of orthopedic urgent care centers called OrthoNOW based in Doral. The company has locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Dr. Alejandro Badia is an orthopedic surgeon who leads a network of orthopedic urgent care centers called OrthoNOW based in Doral. The company has locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

This week’s question: Miami-Dade County recently lost out on $5 million in federal funding for the homeless, meaning hundreds of beds will be lost. What can be done to make up the budget shortfall, and should local businesses play a role?

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The loss of federal funding to provide care for some of our most vulnerable citizens is a tragedy. The question now becomes can leadership change behavior and look to actually save money elsewhere to provide vital social services? I believe that we can. For example, some of the budget shortfall can be overcome by controlling worker’s compensation costs. We recently responded to two Commissioner’s requests on this subject. At present, this program is extremely redundant and inefficient. By modifying the system, we can provide better patient outcomes at a reduced cost.

Alejandro Badia, orthopedic surgeon and founder, OrthoNOW

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The homeless problem in Miami-Dade County is a critical community issue and local businesses leaders should provide support to address this problem. Business leaders certainly could provide support to encourage the Department of Housing and Urban Development to reconsider the decision on the funds allocation.

Hilarie Bass, co-president, Greenberg Traurig

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Local businesses can always do more. The hospitality industry contributes to the Homeless Trust through a food and beverage tax in Miami Dade County. A more long term approach to alleviate this problem is to give people opportunities to achieve sustainable employment and success. In the hospitality industry there is a pressing need for qualified workers and one program that is designed to meet these challenges is the Hospitality Institute of Miami Dade College. The Institute provides targeted and customized workforce training to an underserved population with the goal of gainful employment in the hospitality industry. I have personally attended the graduation ceremonies of this program and the testimonials of the participants are truly inspiring. They are literally changing people’s lives.

Peggy Benua, general manager, Dream South Beach

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We cannot allow the homeless, who are working toward self-sufficiency, to be put out on the streets. This is not a time to place blame, but rather a time to rally together to find the funding necessary to continue these programs. The greatest injustice is to sit idly by and do nothing.

Sister Linda Bevilacqua, President, Barry University

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Unfortunately, this loss in funding impacts the homeless population that needs and deserves our support. I think the experts from the Homeless Trust and Camillus House can make better suggestions than I on this matter. However, local business leaders should not back down on this recent cut and press hard on our legislators, and even the president, to fight to get this funding reinstated.

Meg Daly, president and CEO, Friends of The Underline

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The current visible/growing evidence of the scope of the homeless problem in and around Downtown Miami, and adjacent neighborhoods, speaks loud and clear. “We cannot afford to lose any money from any available source, as we respond to this challenge.” Suffice it to say, before we ask anybody to make up the shortfall, someone needs to answer the following: 1) Why did we lose the money? 2) Whose fault was it? 3) What is being done, so that it does not happen again? Etc., etc. Homelessness is a ‘Community Issue’ that should be resolved/addressed in a partnership between the government and the business community. It is not either or. It is us. The shortfall may have been related to preparation. If so, then, it is unfair to expect the business community, after the fact, to come to the rescue.

T. Willard Fair, president and CEO, Urban League of Greater Miami

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All communities need to take care of their homeless population; humanitarian concerns are the most important reason for doing so. There will also be a negative impact on the general population if the needs of an estimated 700 homeless people go unresolved due to lack of funding We have a number of well run and highly regarded organizations in Miami-Dade that know how to provide care and better the lives of homeless people; it is a shame that these organizations lack proper funding. Businesses and individuals should be encouraged to contribute to this funding shortfall. However, at the end of the day, the county government will have to step up for the benefit of the homeless and the rest of the citizens. The reasons for losing the federal funding needs to be well understood and corrected, this was an expensive lesson.

Vicky Garrigo, market head, U.S. Southeastern Region Private Banking, HSBC Bank

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It’s terribly disturbing that the federal government doesn’t or can’t allocate enough money through HUD to help the homeless in our community. Given that our elected state officials don’t want to tackle this problem, it is indeed left up to our local government to make up the shortfall. I’m in favor of passing new taxes which would help those in need of beds. Let’s show the rest of the country how progressive we can be!

Mitch Kaplan, founder, Books & Books

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It’s not the responsibility of the business sector alone to help Miami-Dade fill the federal funding gap for the homeless, the responsibility is on all of us collectively as a community. The entity that represents the county’s homeless issues should be leading the charge on this effort to secure the funding that has been lost. First step to consider is creating an action plan for meeting the budget shortfall and include an awareness campaign to help inform the broader community about this issue and help garner additional support.

Alan Kleber, managing director, JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle)

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This is a very challenging situation, but homelessness has traditionally been addressed as a public sector issue, and our local governments have acted accordingly. I believe that the private sector may be called upon in the short term to assist, but a long-term solution must be provided by other federal funds or by county and city tax dollars.

Mario Murgado, president and CEO, Brickell Motors

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As anyone who works or lives in downtown or Brickell can attest, Miami has a significant homeless population. Diminished federal funding will only lead to increased numbers on the streets, which in turn deplete city funds from various departments. Thankfully, the nonprofit sector has largely aided this local issue; we must continue to support organizations like Camillus House, which has served the community for decades — the city of Miami along with its residents will continue to benefit from its presence. While it is challenging for small businesses to shoulder costs associated with homelessness, it is certainly within the best interest of the community to organize and execute a plan that will address this issue.

Steve Perricone, president and owner, Perricone’s Restaurant

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Businesses should always find ways to give back to the community and the homeless should not suffer from this loss. This shortfall can also easily be made up by the county. The main focus should be to make sure the county figures out a way to assure that the baseline of funds does not diminish. This would not preclude an effort to get those willing to help to do more by augmenting those funds.

Craig Robins, president and CEO, Dacra

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Our local corporate community has stepped up and made Miami a national model regarding homeless programs. The time is now for Congress to do its part.

David Samson, president, Miami Marlins

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I recently had the pleasure of visiting Lotus House, a shelter for women and children. I had the honor of meeting some of Lotus House’s guests. I was struck by how much it felt like a home, the dedication of the staff — many of them former guests themselves — and the thoughtfulness of services they provided. I also learned about their visionary and ambitious plan to build the Lotus Village project, which would expand Lotus House’s resources for homeless women and children. Innovative public-private collaborations like these can, and should, be the way forward in the development of affordable housing for extremely low income individuals and families.

Rachel Silverstein, executive director, Miami Waterkeeper

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