Bradenton's 'flag house' shines spotlight on the need for foster care

myoung@bradenton.comJune 9, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Every month, 30 to 40 children in Manatee and Sarasota counties are placed in a situation where emergency or long-term foster care is needed, says Guardian Angels of Southwest Florida President Bobbie Price.

"There are never enough homes for them, and a lot of them have to go into emergency care or are taken out of the area," said Price.

That's why Brent and Catherine Greer's family of seven adopted children -- a group of four siblings and a group of three siblings -- on Riverview Boulevard is a precious commodity, says Price, and worth assisting in a fight with the city's code enforcement division.

The Greers came onto the city's radar when an anonymous complaint was levied about a Christmas tree at their century-old home still being displayed in February that had fallen over.

The tree was taken down, but the code enforcement officer returned with a list of other violations. The majority of the city's complaints, according to the letter sent to the Greers, consisted mostly of minor infractions such as chipped paint, missing screens and bare wood exposed on the structure.

The Greers are licensed through Guardian Angels and the agency is rallying the community to help them get through the city's code enforcement process. Bobbie and Floyd Price visited the home Monday.

"We are here this morning to look over the city's list and move forward with what work needs to be done," said Floyd Price, who noted that contractors, trade workers and church volunteers are pledging their help.

Bobbie Price is concerned that a city-imposed June 16 deadline will not be met, which is when the city will do a pre-inspection to determine if a code enforcement hearing for the next day will go forward. She hopes the work can be done on time or that the city provides an extension.

Code Enforcement Manager Volker Reiss said an extension is a very good possibility.

"Typically when someone is close to being in compliance, either staff or the code enforcement board will provide an extension," said Reiss. "From what I've read, it sounds like they are getting close -- and if they are as close as it sounds, there may be no need to go through the formalities. But the key to that is communication from the homeowner and us."

Reiss said there is a reason staff won't return prior to the set inspection date. He said homeowners typically think code enforcement is harassing them if they show up early to check on their progress, "so unless they contact us, we would not go out on our own."

Whatever happens by the June 16 inspection deadline and possible hearing the next day, the Greers are ready to have their say. But more importantly, it is the love shown by the community to them that will not soon be forgotten.

"We are very grateful for the services they provide to this community," said Bobbie Price. "We have an opportunity here to show that gratitude by helping them out."

Volunteers from Bruce Williams Homes, Womble's Glass & Mirror and elsewhere will be working on the home this week.

"This family is very grateful for all the support we've received this past week," said Catherine Greer. "It is a blessing."

The family has added some touches to the original painting of an American flag that Brent Greer conceived as a message to the city that "this is still America."

Catherine Greer has added a Liberty Bell to the front of the home with the words, "Give me liberty or give me death."

Brent Greer views this encounter with the city as an infringement on his personal rights.

"I didn't do this for attention," he said. "I didn't expect anyone to react to it, but the response has been amazing from all over the world from people telling us to fight the good fight. That's what we intend to do."

The best reaction, he said, is the attention it has brought to the need for foster care families.

Brent Greer said when his wife had first proposed the idea to him, he was unsure.

"Once you get into it, it changes your life,' he said. "You think you don't have any time during a normal day, but when you surround yourself with these children, you really don't have any free time, but the funny thing is that you don't mind. These kids change your perspective on life."

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.

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