St.Vincent de Paul CARES will receive a $5 million grant from the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund to eradicate youth and family homelessness in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Thursday morning.
The nonprofit, which has been dedicated to ending homelessness for nearly 60 years, is one of 42 recipients from 24 states that will receive immediate donations totaling $105.9 million. Only six other recipients were awarded $5 million grants, with the rest ranging from $450,000 to $2.5 million. According to Kriseman, the money will go toward helping 400 families and roughly 1,000 children on both sides of the bay.
“The thought that we are going to be changing the trajectory for hundreds and hundreds of children in our school system who are struggling with poverty and homelessness is at the heart of what we work for every day in this city,” Kriseman said.
The grant will provide a substantial financial boost to the existing partnership between St. Vincent De Paul CARES and Pinellas County Schools.
“It is a great honor and privilege to be able to partner with Pinellas County Schools to lift the veil, to provide access, to provide prioritization and provide us the solution one at a time to effectively end homelessness in the the Pinellas County school system,” said Michael Raposa, CEO of St. Vincent de Paul CARES. “We are seeking a permanent end to homelessness for families with children.”
Pinellas County School Superintendent Michael Grego said the impact of homelessness can be seen in schools every day.
“One homeless family is way too many,” he said.
And the ramifications coming from being homeless are myriad, many of which stem from a lack of stability that comes with having a place to return to at the end of the school day.
“The stability of students is key to their economic future,” Greggo said. “We’re providing stability to students and families and with that, the result is that students will be able to achieve. This grant will allow us to accelerate our work to get students into permanent stable housing and as a result into stable educational services.”
While the grant will go a long way, Raposa said it covers only about 5 percent of what is needed to solve the problem of homeless children in the area, and called on the community to stand behind his organization in their fight.
“We are the richest nation on the planet, and to see a homeless child living in a car in the corner of a Walmart parking lot is unacceptable,” he said. “It is unacceptable.”