About 46 percent of Florida households struggle to pay for basic needs. According to the Citrus County Chronicle, 26,000 households in Citrus County fall into a category known as the "Working Poor."
Thousands of our neighbors have to choose which of the following basic needs they won't be able to afford: housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, miscellaneous, and taxes. These aren't necessarily the unemployed welfare people that the residents of Meadowcrest seemed to be worried about. They aren't just the brown and black people some of Meadowcrest might associate with low income. They are the people we invite into our homes to provide services to us. They are the parents of the 66% of students who receive free or reduced lunch from our schools. They are us.
Citrus County has a high number of service jobs. These are the people who mow our grass. They are the people who take care of our pools. These are the everyday heroes who work at our local Publix and Winn-Dixie. They get paid near minimum wage, often part-time, and have to raise a family while providing necessary services for the rest of us.
Many of these jobs are in Health Care Support (average salary: $20,000/yr.), Food Prep and Service (average salary: $12,000 per yr.), and Cleaning and Maintenance (average salary: $18,000 per year). These are people we are in contact with daily. Where are they supposed to live on these wages?
The residents think that Meadowcrest is a lousy place to put apartments. They don't want the traffic. They are afraid their property values will drop. They don't need crime, road damage, and lifestyle disruption. They are okay with putting these apartments in a neighborhood that already hosts low-income apartments, creating a ghetto of apartments. Just don't build them in my community, they say.
NIMBY (Not In My Neighborhood) is alive in Citrus County. The reasons Meadowcrest residents cite are the same reasons people use all over the country. They don't want the poor in their neighborhood because they think they might be different. But, the reality is most of their fears never come to fruition. Traffic patterns can be adjusted. Trees and berms can isolate the apartments from the rest of the community.
We need to house our low-income citizens, and Meadowcrest is as good a place as any.