AH of Monroe works to get things done for those who need help

It certainly takes a village to help others and AH of Monroe certainly understands that.

Scott Pridgen, executive director of AH of Monroe, Joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about how their organization helps those who need it.

AH of Monroe is the only community-based HIV/AIDS service organization in the Florida Keys and they have served more than 3,500 individuals and families.

Today is World AIDS Day and AH of Monroe will be heavily involved. A ceremony will happen today at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall with a procession to the AIDS Memorial.

AH of Monroe and United Way of Collier and the Keys are working together to help residents who have been impacted by Hurricane Ian. The two groups have partnered in the past, especially to help people with COVID.

Pridgen said, “Now that Ian has come along and affected many in our community, we thought that it would be time to partner again. That’s what we’ve done. This is a unique program for anyone who has lost a vehicle due to flooding from Ian or any type of home damages due to Ian.”

The program will assist with the deductible, so insurance – either home or auto – is required to qualify.

Pridgen said, “It’s a pretty simple program. Up to $2,500 for automobile and up to $5,000 for home ownership repairs.”

Both AH of Monroe and the United Way of Collier and the Keys are providing matching funds, each organization, up to $100,000.

Pridgen said, “I’ve said this many times over the years that we can do so much more when we collaborate together. Not one single non-profit can take on all of the needs of the community, whether that be housing, whether that be food, whether that be medical. Any of those things are better served when non-profits can come together with their resources in order to expand that broad band of services. So this is one example of how we can do that.”

There were 429 housing units that were affected by Hurricane Ian and made essentially uninhabitable.

Pridgen said, “Often times when we have natural disasters like this, with hurricanes, FEMA can step in and help those who have no insurance, whether that be an automobile or home repair, but often times we see gaps with people who actually have insurance, but they just don’t have the deductible in order to get the insurance going and to get that contractor out there to make those repairs or get that automobile replaced. Once that disaster happens, you’re looking at sometimes a $2,500 or $5,000 or even a $10,000 deductible that has to be paid out in order to get your insurance to kick in. This program is unique in that it fills that gap, where FEMA can really assist those that have no insurance at all.”

Eligible applicants for the program must be under $75,000 annually or $150,000 per household.

For more information, call 305-735-1929.

Pridgen said, “I would encourage people if they’re just not sure if they even qualify or not, even if their insurance is appropriate or not appropriate, we will look at things on a case by case basis. If you’re unsure if you qualify or not, go ahead and call the number and we can prequalify you and if we can’t help you, then perhaps we can send you to someone or funding that is available even if it’s not within this program.”

AH of Monroe has a number of housing projects in the works as well, including the 3.2 acres in Bahama Village.

Pridgen said, “We have successfully completed all of the planning requirements for the construction of the project in order to go to permitting, which would happen late January. We also have on the next City Commission meeting is the home ownership part of the 3.2. We have been working with the city, the county which is with the Land Trust Fund in order to get that sale price of the home down to a much more affordable level. The city code for home ownership sale prices are too high. That is something that needs to be looked at by the city in the future, but for this particular project we wanted to address that by seeing if we could not get some subsidy from the county through the Land Trust Funds in order to lower that sale price, which we have done. It basically cuts the sale price almost in half. So that’s a huge accomplishment and it just goes to show how you can do city government, county government, county programs, non-profit as well as for-profit entities that are all coming together to address this issue of a particular project like the 3.2. So there’s a lot of work that gone into make this happen and we are finally there. We are finally coming to the close of finalizing these things so that we can actually put shovels in the ground, most likely in early February, late March.”

There is also a project on Duck Avenue, that includes 6.4 acres of old military barracks that were given to the city for special needs programs.

Pridgen said, “We have special needs programs that work with the homeless, special needs programs that work with foster care, special needs programs that work with families and children. All of those programs are occupying the buildings. Unfortunately those buildings have exceeded their useful life. They are falling down, they are in much need of repair. So that is our next project. We are working with the city to see how we can take these buildings down and replace them to what would be more effective and efficient for the programs that they serve.”

A phased approach will be discussed on taking the buildings down and building them back better.

Pridgen said, “That is our next project. That’s going to be a large one. These things take time. They don’t just plan today and pop up tomorrow. They take years of planning and funding and all of those things, but like I said that’s how you bring municipality, for-profit, non-profit and the community together with that common goal and you can get things done.”