Becky, I wanted to share with you a story about a so-called 'charity organization' in Holiday, Florida, called "Joining Hands." When my husband and I found ourselves in need of very temporary help, we called every single agency that we were referred to and all of them kept sending us to this joining hands place.
We were living in a motel due to the discovery that the unlivable house we rented with an option to buy was in foreclosure. We attempted to withhold rent so that a judge would have to hear our side, but the Bradenton City Police Department's Sergeant Knight decided that we were not entitled to the due process rights given to tenants under Florida Landlord Tenant Law Chapter 83 statutes.
Suffice it to say, we tried staying with a friend, but the 2 hour commute each way was too much and my husband was forced to give notice. Two days before his last day, we found ourselves in the motel.
Knowing that we would need help in one or two weeks, we went to "Joining Hands" for help, only to be told they were 'out of funds.' This seems to be the 'stanadard response' everyone gets.
We used his last paycheck and a little help from his family to get through the first two weeks, and in 2 weeks we had job offers, but we weren't going to get paid for two more weeks.
Other people living at the motel told us "Joining Hands" was helping them too. During those first couple of weeks, one couple we met went there every Wednesday and every Wednesday, "Joining Hands" paid their motel bill again. So we went. And we were promptly told they were out of funds. Yet, the continually had funds for this couple, and at least one other couple there as well. (*To add insult to injury, one of the couples had her mother staying at the motel with them, hiding out from a repo man, and 'mom' made something like $200 a night as a CNA/Phlebotomist for an agency.)
When "Robin" at "Joining Hands" asked us our story, even after giving us the 'standard: we're out of funds spiel" we told her and she proceeded to try to give us legal advice that we knew to be incorrect, and or that would take months to see results from.
First she said: "Well you need to go to the DA and tell him about this landlord. It's illegal for him to take money for rent and not pay the mortgage."
I explained, 'State Attorney, we don't have a DA here, we have a State Attorney, and no, it's not.'
Then she told me to go to Bay Area Legal. It takes them 6 weeks to call you back just to set up an appointment 6 weeks down the road from that.
I explained that we had plans to take care of suing the landlord and the Bradenton City Police Department, but that takes months and we just needed help for a week.
This is when she went back and again told me I needed to call the DA. I once again explained that we not only do not have a 'DA', but that it was not a criminal matter, it is civil law, and it takes months to get anything done in civil suits. She continued to try to insist that it was a crime for him to take our money and not pay the mortgage. I tried explaining to her that it is not illegal, that we are a judicial state and that it takes so long to foreclose that it's not illegal, but she kept interrupting me and talking over me, insisting she was right, and getting quite uppity with me about it.
I finally got a little uppity back (I was a professional real estate investor/landlord for 8 years in this state, I'm well aware of Florida Landlord Tenant Laws) and then questioned why there were other people at the motel getting help from this place that kept telling ME it was 'out of funds.'
I got up and left at that point, only to return to the motel and have the other couple come knocking on my door, telling me the lady at "Joining Hands" called her to yell at her for telling us they helped her, and claimed that I yelled at her and that they were going to help me until then.
I didn't 'yell' at her. I corrected her, gently, and then a little more sternly about her spouting off 'legal advice' that she is not qualified to give and about which she is not just totally wrong, but also, would give someone who didn't know better a sense of false hope that some "DA" which doesn't even exist, was going to come swooping in and save the day for them.
Eventually, another couple told me that it works like this: You go to your church, you give them money, then they give money to Joining Hands, and then Joining Hands gives you a motel voucher.
I don't know whether or not that's true. I don't even know if that's legal, and I sure as Hell don't know how it can keep claiming 'out of funds' while every week it has funds for others who have been getting those funds for a while.