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Positive Spin is helping to turn lives around in Hillsborough County neighborhoods

For over a decade, Positive Spin has helped hundreds of distressed families in Hillsborough County turn their trials into triumphs.

The Positive Support for Parents in Neighborhoods Program, Inc., aptly known as Positive Spin, is an invaluable resource that helps stabilize families and provides safe living environments for children.  Initially services focused on families living in the 33612 and 33613.  Currently, services are focused on families living in 33605, 33607, and 33610 zip code areas.

Positive Spin provides a myriad of services, including housing assistance, childcare support, family counseling, and job training and placement assistance. In addition, Positive Spin helps families with basic living needs – furniture, transportation, clothing, emergency food and utility assistance.

Modeled after a Successful Program

MsHarriet L. Scott, who established the agency in Hillsborough County and served as its executive director for nine years, prior to her retirement, marvels at the impact Positive Spin has had in Hillsborough County since it first set up shop in 2001 at St. James Place Town Homes, an apartment complex on 127th Avenue near 15th Street.

What started as a model of Jacksonville’s highly successful Edna McConnell Clark Foundation Neighborhood Partner Program has evolved into a thriving and innovative endeavor that continues to be recognized for reducing juvenile crime and empowering broken families.

In 2008, Positive Spin received the Provider Agency Award from the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County for preventing 587 children from entering the foster care system during the 2007-2008 school year.

94 Percent Success Rate

The agency has received funding from the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, Hillsborough Kids, Inc., Kellogg Foundation, and Department of Children and Families. Positive Spin has consistently witnessed a 94 percent success rate with families remaining stable and becoming self-sufficient after receiving assistance from Positive Spin.

The mission of Positive Spin is stabilize families by providing support services to address critical needs while providing opportunities for growth and long-term self-sufficiency. The agency’s vision is to have all families experience economical, educational, physical, emotional, and social success in a safe, nurturing and diverse community.

When Positive Spin began operating out of three four-bedroom units at St. James, the North Tampa neighborhood had the county’s highest rate of child abuse, juvenile crime and transient families.

Mrs. Scott, who spent decades advocating for families in Hillsborough County as a social worker and state childcare administrator, embraces the adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.’’ She’s extremely proud of the transformation in neighborhoods served by Positive Spin.

Activities for Growth and Development

In the first few years, Positive Spin became a gathering place for community activities, even hosting a Taste of St. James. Families began talking to each other, trusting each other, along with utilizing each other’s business services. Women in the neighborhood even opened their homes to care for children whose parents worked late.

On top of that, the first employees were area residents and volunteers who honed their office skills at Positive Spin. The agency now has 11 full-time and part-time workers.

Positive Spin partnered with the Sierra Club, and neighborhood youth were taken on weekend field trips that exposed them to the wonders of nature and parks. A Boys and Girls Club was established and children went canoeing, horseback riding, and were engaged in character development classes.

“The children started migrating in mass every day after school,” Mrs. Scott noted, adding that an average of 500 children from 230 area families have been served annually by Positive Spin.

Referrals Come from Many Sources

To this day, the agency’s programs have become so successful that referrals are made to Positive Spin from a number of sources, including the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Children and Family Services, social service organizations, churches and schools.

Since 2000, many state programs with a similar model have perished. However, Positive Spin has survived because agencies such as the Department of Children and Family Services and the Children’s Board of Hillsborough have seen the worth of the program, Mrs. Scott said.

A key component of Positive Spin’s success is the Family Team Conference, where each member of a family attends a meeting so that a “course of action’’ can be developed for a family unit. The conference could involve a family’s teacher or pastor – anyone who could help the family develop a viable plan to build on its strengths.

The Family Team Conference concept has been so successful that neighbors have adopted it when dealing with crises.

Mrs. Scott tells of a spouse living in Positive Spin’s target area who was pondering suicide because of a problem at work. The family’s neighbors immediately intervened and called a Family Team Conference. They began advocating for the married couple involved and their children. A family in the neighborhood even took in the family’s pet while the couple and their children received counseling.

“There are strengths in neighborhoods if we would just use them,” Mrs. Scott stated.

Positive Spin offers a number of programs that empower participants, including neighborhood improvement, leadership training, a women’s support group, and training resources.

Making Dreams Come True

Nevertheless, Mrs. Scott acknowledges the heavy burden that today’s distressed economy is taking on families, especially those she encounters who already are struggling to make ends meet. It is the reason she diligently seeks private and public funding for Positive Spin.

The average Positive Spin client is a single mother with three children, who is being evicted, is unemployed or underemployed. Much of Positive Spin’s budget goes toward housing assistance – from people who need rental help or, as Mrs. Scott attests, to those with “nowhere to go for the night.’’

Once a family is stabilized and the children are secure, Positive Spin’s goal is to help parents remain self-sufficient and to assist them in making lifelong dreams come true. And Positive Spin boasts of many success stories.

Mrs. Scott tells of a 19-year-old raising her nine siblings, a niece and a nephew. They had been evicted with no place to go. Along with providing short-term needs, Positive Spin helped the young woman file paperwork and receive licenses to start her own businesses. Today she owns a childcare center in the area.

Then there was the single father with a passion for welding. When he reached out to Positive Spin, he and his 9-year-old daughter were living in a car. Positive Spin connected him with a licensed general contractor who assisted him in getting work. The once homeless man now owns a welding company.

Furthermore, a single mother who lived in a public storage unit with her four children needed a place to live and a fresh start. Positive Spin provided both. The homeless mom now has a couple of large cleaning contracts and is living her dream of owning her own business.

“I want people to know that regardless of internal or external conditions, what it might appear to be, what it may look like, there are natural strengths in everyone and in every neighborhood,” Mrs. Scott concluded. “We are missing the boat when we don’t recognize that and don’t build on it.’’