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Testimony to
The Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Facility
Needs for Seniors in the 21st Century

January 14th, 2002
Miami, FL

Mr. Jose Fabregas
Executive Director

MR. JOSE FABREGAS: Good morning.

My name is Jose Fabregas. I'm Executive Director of CODEC, Inc., a private, non-profit organization and we're better known as housing providers for the seniors.

In 1983, the organization started looking at the disintegration of the fabric of the family, looking after our exile community first, and it became apparent that the elderly were being left alone. The children were moving away and there was no large, big support. There were no large corporations, no Ford Motor Company, nobody.

Everybody lives here, every senior just relies on Social Security and supplemental. I don't think that very many people have any retirement plans here.

Just to start, we went to see the -- the only program that helps very low income seniors are one or two programs. We started competition. We got our first building; nowadays, we have 1,500 units. We own and manage fifteen buildings. We need the support of not only this community, but we need the support of Dade County and we need HUD to take a look at the senior programs more closely.

The monies have to be allocated for senior programs. I think there should be a whole senior division from U.S. HUD. We're getting older, this nation is getting older.

We really, every year, we see less and less money allocated for 2002. Just to tell you the need that we have, last month we opened our fifteenth building. It's located in the heart of Little Havana on 22nd Avenue and Calle Ocho.

We thought that we were going to have a lot of people applying for the building, so we decided to do a lottery and announced through the papers and television that we were going to give applications for a period of two weeks. People usually camp out from a month before to fifteen days to get these applications. Through rain, through storms, people get robbed in the streets.

So we decided to try to do something because we thought there would be a lot of people would be there and not only 500. Six thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven people showed up for applications. We spent another two weeks qualifying these persons.

We finally drew up a lottery with the press present and a hundred fortunate people got apartments from our waiting list of 500 people, which is typical for every building here. It's still there.

We also need Dade County to help us. This year, Dade County, who supports our organization, did not give any funds to CODEC to look for new applications for 2002. As a result, next year, we won't be placing an application in Dade County. We cannot; we did not receive any funds.

Also, Dade County is using this community development program money sometimes to do repairs to their own public libraries, to their own departments, et cetera, which is fine. It served the purpose because it serves people, but it doesn't go straight to the people.

And to top it all, we've been taxed on two buildings which are supposed to be -- we don't know. We cannot pay; the tax certificates were sold on two of our buildings.

Dade County should help us, should reverse this situation and we need so much help, that it's incredible in this county. The people, between what the doctor said, is true. Not only 500, between food stamps, et cetera, they only get six, seven hundred dollars a month.

This is no way to live.

I have been in the center of Little Havana. I have seen people with a roach-infested, ten by ten room with a hot plate as a kitchen, paying $350 to $400 a month.

This is no way to live, to spend -- this is no dignity. We need the help, starting from U.S. HUD, from the top, starting -- allocating --

Let Congress get courageous and put some more money for the elderly. Let Congress, you know, don't be afraid of Section 8. It's a long commitment, but you have to have a long commitment to our people. We're the people who fought for this country.

We're the people who are poor, we're the people who are American citizens, and we're the ones who defended this country.

And the country should rely on its people. Also, the elderly have a lot to offer. So I think that we should really send this message straight through, not only to Congress, to Dade County, to our local government so they can actually help us to provide more.

We, the providers, are here. We've been doing the job and we need more help.

Thank you very much.


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