Florida has a new opportunity for communities presently working toward holistic community revitalization. It is called Front Porch Florida. This initiative, led by Governor Jeb Bush, is designed to provide those communities with the means by which to participate in the process to once again take back their neighborhoods through assistance from public and private entities, and make it a desirable place to live, work and play.
State agencies and private sector companies dedicated to the Front Porch Initiative provide a wide range of technical and financial assistance to the identified communities. As one of nineteen state agency partners, the Department of Corrections has established a team of Front Porch contacts at various institutions and community corrections offices in the 20 Front Porch communities to show our commitment to the Front Porch Initiative.
Groundbreaking for a new home in West Bartow. Lots of community support was present. Photo courtesy of Polk County Democrat.
In past years, the department has provided labor squads for beautification of communities (including landscaping, grounds maintenance, and litter control), constructed handicap ramps and fence lines, and cleared vacant lots. Our efforts in the revitalization area have made tremendous improvements in these communities.
DOC Work Crew and Waste Management staff at North Duval/Front Porch Neighborhood Cleanup in February 2004.
DOC Work Crew Van at North Duval/Front Porch Neighborhood Cleanup in February 2004.
The department remains vigilant in developing partnerships with several Front Porch Councils to provide in-kind services on future projects. Representatives from the Ocala Housing Authority have coordinated with representatives from 10-15 non-profit organizations in Marion County to express their appreciation to the department for their assistance in providing in-kind services in the amount of $764,563 during 2003-2004.
The department partnered with the Northeast Gainesville/Duval Area Neighborhood Front Porch Florida community, under the auspices of the City of Gainesville, and the Black on Black Crime Task Force, to provide inmate labor to lay the foundation, build trusses, and provide masonry skills to construct the Reichert House. This facility deters at-risk youth from the criminal justice system, and is a catalyst for them to reach proficiency in state academic achievement and assessment tests. The Reichert House is scheduled for completion in summer 2005.
The Reichert House Media Day was held on April 8, 2005, in Gainesville. Approximately 30-40 people were in attendance including Representative Larry Cretul and Ed Jennings, Gainesville City Commissioner Rick Bryant, Gainesville Chief of Police Norman Boxford, Warden Laynard Owens of Gainesville CI and staff, City of Gainesville representatives, and media representatives from TV 20, The Gainesville Sun, and WSKY 97.3 radio station.
The department has also partnered with the Tallahassee Front Porch Greater Frenchtown Revitalization Council by providing inmate labor to install a fence in the Good Bread Neighborhood to reduce foot traffic cutting through the neighborhood from Macomb Street to Old Bainbridge Road. The department also assisted Project Silver Top with cleaning, prepping, priming and painting homes with metal roofs to preserve the heritage of the area.
Project Operation Re-Habitat is another project that is underway in a new partnership forged between the Newtown Front Porch Revitalization Council and representatives from the City of Sarasota. In-kind inmate labor services from Hardee CI will renovate 21 homes for senior citizens in the Newtown Front Porch Revitalization Council community in Sarasota.
Several meetings have taken place with the Bradenton Front Porch Council and the City of Bradenton representatives to discuss renovating, painting and landscaping the Front Porch Council office, the public golf course and other future projects.
Several members from the Bureau of Community Relations made a community outreach presentation to the Black on Black Crime Task Force Council at the Gainesville Police Department on April 6, 2005. The department is continuing to encourage communities to partner with us. The department is not only concerned about the number of offenders entering into our institutions, and the care and custody they receive while incarcerated, but also the extent of their productiveness when they are released back into society.
The department also provides staff representation from the neighboring institution, work camp, or community corrections offices at the monthly meetings in each of the Front Porch communities and various special activities in these communities.
During 2003-2004, the department has provided $53M of in-kind services on hundreds of projects statewide. Senator Tony Hill of Jacksonville has expressed interest in forging a partnership with the department in the Putnam and Duval counties.
For more information with regard to the department’s Front Porch Initiative, please contact the Office of Re-Entry.
To learn more about the Governor’s Front Porch Initiative, you may contact the Director of the Office of Urban Opportunity at www.myflorida.com or call (850) 487-9556.