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Ann W. Madsen: Where are the champions for women?

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Ann W. Madsen

As this Mother’s Day approaches, I find it particularly ironic to be advocating for the same support for women as our founder did four decades ago. Helen Gordon Davis opened this nonprofit to help women who needed extra support just to survive — serious counseling, intense skills development, assistance to the homeless and domestic violence populations, legal advice, financial guidance and the restored confidence to lead independent lives. She advocated for and was successful in persuading the state Legislature to create a Displaced Homemakers Program and fund it with a Trust Fund comprised of fees from marriage licenses and divorce applications.

Just this week, a group of legislators in a late Friday afternoon session broke our trust and voted to terminate the Displaced Homemakers Program. What a cavalier and cowardly act. No one thought to speak with any of the eight organizations that work tirelessly to help women in need to see if that recommendation made any sense. No one appeared to consider what would happen to the hundreds of the most vulnerable “moms,” many of them single mothers with young children. No one apparently imagined that their mom, wife, sister, daughter or grandmother would ever need the kind of support that so many have found through this program for 40 years. Yet, wherever I go across Tampa, women from all walks of life, tell me about how the help they received through the Displaced Homemakers program helped them to survive and change their lives.

As I reached out to legislators about this, no one offered to help. I guess they are too focused on other priorities. It made me wonder whatever happened to the champions for women in our State Legislature?  Are there no longer those valiant few that will stand up for what is right? The whole sad episode reminds me of the commercial where a politician was throwing granny off the cliff.

We are not political at The Centre for Women. Our views are politically diverse and we intentionally do not get embroiled in the political arena. We simply concentrate on our day-to-day work of helping women to succeed both personally and professionally. We do it with limited resources because we know our work changes lives for the better. The impact we make is felt every day across Tampa Bay.

We hope Governor Scott will veto this ill-conceived amendment because that is the right thing to do. How anyone can think it is OK to take monies in trust to help vulnerable people and conflate that with support for tourism simply boggles the mind. Perhaps they thought women would not notice or would not speak up. I don’t pretend to know how government works. I am not sure anyone does.

Thankfully, many voices are joining in to encourage continued support for Displaced Homemakers. We hope you will too.

Speak up and ask the Governor to leave the Displaced Homemakers Trust in place so that the most vulnerable among us will have the support they need.


Ann W. Madsen is Executive Director of The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women, Inc. in Tampa.

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