Florida first lady Casey DeSantis is promoting an effort that brings public and private sectors together to help struggling families.
DeSantis wrote an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday to explain the "Hope Florida, a Pathway to Prosperity" initiative. She said the approach, which "can be a model for America," already has improved the lives of nearly 50,000 Floridians.
"Since 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson announced his 'War on Poverty,' more than $23 trillion has been spent on federal and state anti-poverty programs, with no meaningful improvement in poverty rates," DeSantis wrote. "After decades of failure, it’s time to try a community-based approach, in which government plays a role but is not the only solution.
"In Florida, instead of overrelying on government, we're organizing the generosity and goodness of neighbors to help one another. Our state government extends a helping hand, connects parents and their children with local community resources, and then stays out of the way.
"Based on our success so far, I'm confident that Hope Florida can be a model for America."
With Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., widely considered a contender to be part of the 2024 GOP national ticket, the first lady's column showed that she also has ideas to help the country.
"To learn how to maximize community collaboration outside government, I traveled our state and held roundtables with our faith-based communities, nonprofits, businesses, and state and local government partners," wrote DeSantis, mother of three young children.
"I saw the passion of Floridians spending their time and treasure helping others. But unfortunately, many were working in silos."
Saying "government's role must be limited, accountable and nonexclusive," Casey DeSantis added that "we must unite communities and work together to put parents and their children on a path to prosperity."
In establishing "Hope Florida," two key moves were made. First, Department of Children and Families employees who processed government payments, were turned into "Hope Navigators."
These employees now "help parents identify barriers to their family's prosperity, map out individualized plans, and make sure that the best nonprofit and private resources are a key part of the solution," Casey DeSantis wrote.
Also, a scalable way was identified to activate the state's faith and community-based organizations to meet the immediate needs of citizens who might otherwise rely on government.
CarePortal technology allows Hope Navigators to identify the needs of struggling Floridians and enter that information into a computer-based network. Nongovernmental organizations then respond to the needs.
"CarePortal requests are typically entered and fulfilled only once," DeSantis wrote. "Why? We've found that once local community organizations learn of struggling moms, dads and their children, neighbors won't let that family go hungry or homeless again."
DeSantis cited a single mother of five who was living in her car in Jacksonville. Today, thanks to Hope Florida, she works at a grocery store and has a safe home for her children.
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