In The News

Large donation made by local auto dealership

MIAMI (WSVN) – A generous donation was made, Wednesday, to a South Florida community.

Warren Henry Auto Group donated $25,000 to the Overtown Youth Center. “I like to feel like we’ve created a vehicle here where individuals can connect themselves to our brand and continue to help our effort so that we can continue to graduate more kids,” said Mourning Family Foundation and former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning.

Mourning, whose family foundation supports the youth center, was on hand to receive the donation.

The foundation has served more than 700 students in South Florida.

Copyright 2017 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Special to South Florida Times

MIAMI – During her visit to the Overtown Youth Center on Oct. 11, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoke to the assembled students about the importance of a college education. She shared her intention, if elected, to provide free college at public institutions and emphasized that HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) would be a priority for her administration.

“We were talking about college preparation and ideas for what they want to do, what they want to study and the cost of college came up. That’s a big deal for our young people,” said Tracy Wilson Mourning, wife of Overtown Youth Center co-founder, Alonzo Mourning; both of whom greeted Clinton and joined her in addressing the students.

In response to the issue of college affordability, Cliton said, “It’s absolutely important that we get the cost of college down so every one of you can afford to go to college.”

She then went on to explain her plan for students to attend public colleges and university free of charge. “You don’t have borrow money, you don’t have to worry about money, you can get your college education. And that’s exactly what we’re going to try to do because too many young people get stopped from going to college because they can’t afford it.”

Clinton’s opponent, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s education plan includes an intention to “Work with Congress on reforms to ensure universities are making a good faith effort to reduce the cost of college and student debt in exchange for the federal tax breaks and tax dollars,” according to his website. Trump’s plan will also, “Ensure that the opportunity to attend a two or four-year college, or to pursue a trade or a skill set through vocational and technical education, will be easier to access, pay for, and finish.”

When Clinton asked the group if they’d heard of HBCUs, several hands went up.

Her plan for free college also extends to public HBCUs. Clinton’s education plan, The New College Compact, “will support, encourage, and reward the HBCUs that help our students succeed so students can complete college, without costs being a barrier or debt holding them back,” according to her website.

She said she’ll pay special attention to HBCUs “because they’ve done a great job of educating generations and I want to make sure they have the facilities and equipment and teachers they need.”

Essentially signed into existence in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter, the White House Initiative on HBCUs has been tweaked over the years by presidents Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush. Earlier this year, President Obama signed an executive order renewing the program. Critics say the program has not done enough to help HBCUs, several of which have closed over the past several years.

Perhaps as a nod to the Democratic party’s support of HBCUs, Obama is campaigning for Clinton today at Florida Memorial University, South Florida’s only HBCU.

Wilson Mourning, a graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C., announced on her Facebook page that she would be traveling there this week to present a scholarship to a Howard student who is a graduate of Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School.

Flanked by Mournings, Clinton drops in on Overtown

Fidgety students awaited their big visitor Tuesday evening inside the cheerfully painted walls of the Overtown Youth Center.

“Hello, everybody,” Hillary Clinton greeted them as she walked in. She was met with a few gasps.

It was a day before Florida’s extended deadline for voters to register before the Nov. 8 election. Clinton was spending precious minutes with children mostly too young to sign up.

Some of them, though, would be taking part in their first election — if they filled out the paperwork in time.

“Get in the game,” they were urged — not by Clinton herself, but by a prominent donor and local philanthropist: Tracy Mourning, the wife of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning.

The Mournings guided Clinton through the center, which opened in 2003 as a project of the Mourning Family Foundation. Students gathered for after-school programs, including one focusing on culinary arts and another designed around college prep.

That gave Clinton an opening to pitch her affordable-college plan.

“We’re going to get that cost down,” she pledged.

Even if most of the students couldn’t cast ballots for her, perhaps some of their parents could. So Clinton specifically mentioned HBCU’s — historically black colleges and universities. “I’m going to pay special attention to those, because they’ve done a great job,” she said.

There was not a single mention of Donald Trump.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Clinton had stumped at a rally at Miami Dade College — also aimed at attracting young voters — centered on climate change. Her unannounced Overtown stop was intended to highlight Clinton’s work for children and families. That it gave a little publicity to a pair of big-name campaign contributors didn’t hurt. Neither did its location in the heart of black Miami, where Clinton has tried to boost her popularity to closer approximate President Barack Obama’s.

The neighborhood seemed pleased to have her. Several young kids clad in school uniforms outside the center’s front door saw through a chain-link fence as Clinton entered.

“Hillary Clinton!” a little girl squealed, long after Clinton was out of sight.

Special ‘Wraparound’ Services for Black Children Aren’t the Solution to Bad Policy Decisions

We’re not going to “nonprofit” our way out of poverty, housing unaffordability and economic injustice. Historic discrimination and structural inequality have laid the groundwork for multiple life-sucking neighborhood factors that black children face every day: Poverty, crime, unemployment, unaffordable housing, inaccessible health care and limited transportation make it difficult for children to learn.

The rise of the nonprofit-industrial complex is a necessary response to in-your-face suffering, but our investments in nonprofits can’t shield us from the source problem of bad policy.

In addition, many nonprofits are funded by foundations and philanthropists that benefit from policies that produce inequality. Consequently, our healing strategies have to be aligned with a policy agenda that is clear as to what needs to change.

Do wraparound services offer an effective way to heal? And if so, what can we expect from these services?

Popularized in the 1980s era of “educating the whole child,” the phrase “wraparound services” broadly describes a treatment team consisting of a child’s family and particular professionals who work to address specific needs. There are wraparound services that address food insecurity, trauma, high mobility, parental-disengagement truancy and other consequences of structural inequality.

At the 46th annual conference of the National Black Child Development Institute in Orlando, Fla., last week, I moderated a panel that included contributors to the publication Being Black Is Not a Risk Factor—Florida. On the panel, as in the paperback, wraparound-service providers shared evidence of their success.

“We know that wraparound services work because they take a holistic perspective in breaking down barriers to success,” said Tina Brown, executive director of the Overtown Youth Center. “We don’t simply focus on academics because there are so many other significant issues that are at play before a child walks in the school. And we have the evidence to prove it.”

The Overtown Youth Center makes itself available to the 2,392 families of a neighborhood bearing the same name in Miami. According to the report, Overtown’s crime index is 55 percent higher than Miami’s overall. About half of its residents fail to attain a high school diploma. The median income is $15,000-$20,000 annually, with 36 percent of residents reporting less than $10,000 per year. These numbers aren’t surprising because 55 percent of Overtown’s residents age 17 and older are unemployed.

Serving 400 youths ages 8 to 25 and their families, the center targets students who qualify for Title I services and show low academic performance, experience a lack of safety in the community and have limited access to productive activities during out-of-school hours.

The Overtown Youth Center provides 24-hour case management, in- and out-of-school programming, and academic support. Case managers do everything from making home visits and monitoring school attendance to offering workshops to parents.

The center is having an impact. The report states, “OYC has graduated 100 percent of its high school senior class with 95 percent of its alumni making a successful transition to college, vocational school, the military and/or the workforce.”

Brown says that there a lot of buzz around wraparound services, but there is a lack of high-quality providers in relation to the need.

Being Black is Not a Risk Factor also highlighted the Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County, which was created through a statute that allows for Children’s Services Councils—special taxing districts—to fund hundreds of children’s programs. Through an election-style campaign, Miami-Dade County residents voted to increase their taxes to create a fund to serve children. The approximately $120 million in operations this year will fund quality-improvement support for child care centers, 1,430 child care slots, academic-support systems, health screenings and a multitude of other programs dedicated to child wellness.

But given the depth of neighborhood problems, the pressure to slow the demand should be as high as the pressure we place on meeting acute needs.

“NBCDI takes a comprehensive approach to ensuring the success and well-being of children and families,” said Cemeré James, vice president of policy for the center.

NBCDI endorses wraparound services as a necessary step in serving youths and families, and the organization highlights successful programs. However, James acknowledges that wraparound services are not a solution in themselves.

“We also address structural barriers, regressive policies and the lack of investment in our communities as we move toward the goal of improving the lives of black families,” James said.

The same way the residents of Miami-Dade campaigned to invest in children, cities across the country can campaign to divest and eradicate policies that produce inequities. Ultimately, deconstructing the structures that cause inequities is the longitudinal solution to the issues black students face.

Being black is not a risk factor. Black people are simply dealing with structures that would have people believe otherwise. Black folk need healing in the form of high-quality nonprofit providers, but we also need organizations like NBCDI that can topple upstream sources of the pain.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.


Alonzo Mourning’s affordable apartments a symbol of new hope

A ribbon cutting takes place during the grand opening of Courtside Apartments on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in Miami. The affordable housing complex is at 1699 NW Fourth Ave. in the historic Overtown community. This project is the result of a joint venture between Housing Trust Group, one of the largest developers of affordable housing in Florida, and NBA legend and AM Affordable Housing, Inc. Director Alonzo Mourning, center in photo. With Mourning are: Clarence E. Woods III, executive director SEOPW Community Redevelopment Agency, left, Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez, Housing Trust Group Chairman and founder Randy Rieger Sr., Miami City Commission Chairman and SEOPW CRA Chairman Keon Hardemon, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giminez, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, Miami City Commissioner Wilfredo "Willy" Gort, and Housing Trust Group President and CEO Matthew Rieger Jr.

Alonzo Mourning is used to a workout, but he didn’t think his latest victory would take nine years.

“I believed in this and I knew this community needed it more than ever,” said Mourning, as Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and other government, civic and business leaders came together Friday to celebrate the grand opening of Courtside Apartments. It’s a $22.8 million affordable housing complex in Overtown developed by Miami’s Housing Trust Group and the former Miami Heat star’s nonprofit, AM Affordable Housing.

Miami’s Overtown community has seen its share of false hopes and dashed dreams, said Mourning, a former foster child who became an NBA Hall of Famer and helped found the Overtown Youth Center in 2003. “Hope lived here many years ago … but as the community faded over the years, so did hope. But hope has found new life by way of the Overtown Youth Center and the brand new apartments and the leadership in this community. Hope will continue to grow … and will usher in prosperity, pride, possibility and promise .”

Resident Eric Garland spent 18 months looking for a suitable three-bedroom apartment home for his family of six before choosing a unit in the new 84-unit residential community at 1699 NW Fourth Ave. He liked the location, positioned near the Culmer Center, a school, a church and a park, and also the spaciousness and amenities of the building. Those include a large club room, a media lounge, computer lab, gym and, of course, an Alonzo Mourning basketball court.

Indeed, public spaces are stylishly designed and furnished, the walls adorned with art. Courtside’s one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are already fully leased, all of them reserved for residents making an annual income of no more than 60 percent of area median income, which ranges from no more than $29,820 for a one-person household to $49,440 for a six-person household. Courtside’s monthly rents range from $760 to $990.

The development includes four live-work units for families with home-based businesses. Families will begin moving in this weekend, and there’s a 400-person waiting list.

Miami-Dade faces a dire shortage of affordable rentals. The county has the greatest share of low-income households in the state, according to new statistics, and it’s one of the country’s least affordable housing markets.

Government leaders are considering several proposals, including the creation of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. But even with federal resources, there is no way to meet the demand for affordable housing, said Matthew Rieger, president and CEO of developer Housing Trust Group (HTG), which specializes in affordable housing. “It’s on us as a community to figure out a way to get developments done.”

County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson remembers her first meeting with Mourning. “He came to me with his big idea, and to me it was a really big idea because he wanted to build on county-owned land. He asked me, ‘How can I help him get this done?’ ’’

After a unanimous vote of the county commission, Mourning’s nonprofit signed a 65-year ground lease for four acres at the county-owned Culmer Center property in 2008. After a competitive bidding process, AM Affordable Housing selected Housing Trust Group as the developer-partner.

The recession slowed the project considerably, but HTG secured financing in 2014 through a variety of public-private sources, and broke ground in July 2015; 113 neighborhood residents were hired for the construction, Rieger said.

Friday brought the long-awaited celebration. “What we are witnessing today is the renaissance of Overtown,” Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon said.

“It takes a team of people … coming together to make this happen. This feels like a post-championship press conference,” Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez said. “I am already thinking about Phase 2.”

HTG and Mourning’s team plans a second phase of development at Courtside that will focus on seniors and a third phase that will target populations with special needs, such as formerly homeless veterans and foster care youth who have aged out of the system, said Rieger. “This truly has been a labor of love, a lot of risk, a lot of heart, a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”

HTG has five affordable housing communities under construction in Florida including the 73-unit Wagner Creek in Miami. Others on the runway include Princeton Park, a 150-unit affordable housing development in South Miami-Dade.

“I’m a strong believer it takes a team effort … and we have to become the change we want to see,” Mourning said. “For good things to happen you have to surround yourself with good people.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg


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