Students speak to board members about plight of homeless


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Julie Adams, left, a student at Rockledge High School, and Deegan Tarrillo, who attends Viera High School, each delivered passionate speeches to the Brevard Board of County Commissioners in July on the plight of the low-income and homeless population in Brevard County.

Jill Blue

Viera teens Julie Adams and Deegan Tarrillo each delivered passionate speeches to the Brevard Board of County Commissioners in July on the plight of the low-income and homeless population in Brevard.

In an attempt to persuade commissioners to reconsider the depletion of funds to the CCA (Community Action Agency), the Viera and Rockledge High students doubled up, speaking a total of 10 minutes to board members.

The CCA was established to help poor, unemployed, disabled and senior citizens pay for rent, utilities and food. It is an income-based program.

“Last year, the commissioners cut Community Action Agency’s budget in half, taking away $184,942 to pave a tiny section of road,” Tarrillo said. “That cut was stopped at the last moment, but it is scheduled to automatically happen at the start of this budget year.”

Although the Brevard County Commissioners voted in favor of cutting $184,942 in assistance to the CCA, there was short-term reversal due to Hurricane Irma. County Commissioners have spoken in favor of restricting certain types of nonprofit organizations eligible for taxpayer-funded grants.

“I believe we have a fundamental ethical and moral responsibility to help those around us … to those most vulnerable in our community,” Adams said.

The mission statement of the CCA is, in part, to reduce the causes of poverty by empowering persons to become self-sufficient through case management, life management training and short term financial assistance.

“Our neighbors and friends will still cost the county money if you leave them homeless,” Adams said.

Adams cited a study that homelessness can end up costing taxpayers as much as $30,000 to $50,000 per year.

The students emphasized that the CCA program helps keep the lights on in the homes of the elderly, disabled and young children.

“Granted, we all benefit by smooth roads, but that cannot be more important than empowering 14.7 percent of our population to escape poverty,” Tarrillo said, referring to the number   of homeless in Brevard.

Both students spoke for five minutes to board members, who gave no immediate comment on the subject. Adams said she has made calls to Commissioner Curt Smith’s office, hoping to set up a meeting.