Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.
When I started working on a campaign to educate residents on the $45 million the City of St. Petersburg would receive from the American Rescue Plan in the first half of 2021, I knew that access to affordable housing was a problem for many residents. So I wasn’t surprised when I asked people about how the money should be spent that there was a large consensus around affordable housing.
However, I was surprised to hear people’s stories of $400-$1,000 increases or just flat out non-renewal notices for rent. I heard from people who were willing to do anything to keep a roof over their family’s heads. Perhaps most surprising was what people were willing to do for those in their community. Along the way, I’ve seen friends and leaders of this movement that were not impacted when they got involved suddenly grapple with the reality of housing instability in their lives.
The work of everyday people in St. Petersburg built a movement that believes that every resident should be guaranteed housing and as such, we are in a housing emergency.
The collective work of over 1,000 residents pushed their elected leaders to consider options not previously seen as possible. This work spread throughout Florida and ignited a fire that has led Orange County and the City of Tampa to declare that their areas are in a housing state of emergency.
However, here in St. Petersburg, local officials have stalled in finding a solution to stabilize rent.
While leadership from the state would be most impactful, our governor and state legislature have turned their back on residents. So we are left with our local leaders to do everything they can to implement imperfect solutions and sidestep the obstacles put in front of them.
My faith tradition calls me to love my neighbor and serve “the least of these,” and I truly believe that the greatest change we can make to address this is to take on collectively the social responsibility of providing a home for all of our neighbors. I love God, and I am serving God when I love and serve marginalized people in my community. Therefore I will do whatever is necessary to stand, sit, or “sleep in” with my neighbors in my beloved community.
Faith in Florida organizer Nick Carey was one of 25 protesters who slept on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall Aug. 3.