In November 1982, more than 1,800 anxious migrant workers risked ending up as squatters if local officials carried out their threat to close the Everglades Labor Camp. Local growers sought control – the workers balked. Migrants countered let us manage it. Local government snubbed the offer pointing to its $2,000,000 debt. Time was running out. Ezequiel Loredo, one of about 50 workers who met till late night with officials, lamented, “The only thing left to do is leave the camp, put up tents across the street and live in the fields.”
But national housing and civil rights groups joined hands with poor residents, local advocates and church leaders. Bankers and growers rolled up their sleeves, too. This broad-based coalition found common ground, put together a plan to stop the imminent closure and ensuing homelessness – and then created a remarkable charitable group. Rural Neighborhoods’ was born from this movement.
Founded in 1982 as the Everglades Community Association with a shoestring budget and a staff of five, Rural Neighborhoods has grown to become one of the most innovative and respected leaders in affordable housing. Our beginning remains notable. Bringing together a broad-based network of activists, civic and faith-based groups, business professionals and low-income residents – is a hallmark of our past and present.
So is good stewardship. Throughout the 1980’s, skillful management put us in the black at Everglades Labor Camp, we reversed local government’s $325,000 annual loss and every mortgage payment got paid when due. That ethic of responsible financial planning and resource management remains true after more than three decades of service.