JUST PLAIN TALK: Homelessness Alliance demand increasing

Buz Livingston
Walton Sun

#GivingTuesdayNow took place May 5 as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. Beginning then Susan and I will match dollar for dollar up to $5,000 all donations made this month to Housing and Homelessness Alliance, the lead agency for the Okaloosa-Walton Continuum of Care. Grants cover their overhead and salaries, so all donations during May will go directly to services for Walton and Okaloosa County residents.

Even though Florida has taken the first steps to open its economy, people who live on the margin still struggle. The best way to end homelessness is to keep people in their homes. For instance, an alternator goes haywire and someone can’t get to their job. Or they miss time from work to fix it and can’t make the rent payment. The Housing and Homelessness Alliance (HHA) works with people to keep them in a stable housing environment. If they are working, they are paying payroll taxes; they contribute to society. If you are receiving Social Security, you want people on the job. Also, the HHA helps people at risk and can get them away from dangerous environments. Because of health concerns, space at shelters is limited and often non-existent.

You can donate at the HHA’s website,, or by sending a check to PO Box 115, Fort Walton Beach FL, 32549-0115. Even if you don’t itemize deductions, as part of the recently passed CARES Act, you can deduct, above the line, up to $300 on your 2020 tax return. Without boring you with the details, an above-the-line deduction is a better deal than an itemized deduction. If you are over 70 1/2, required distributions are suspended from IRAs for this year, but you can make a “Qualified Charitable Distribution” (QCDs). 401K plans and deferred compensation plans aren’t eligible for QCDs. Note, the funds have to go directly to the charity from the IRA. Direct distribution to the account owner negates the QCD and will result in a tax liability. For people who don’t itemize, a QCD is a tax-savvy way to make a charitable donation.

Our donation came from a donor advised fund (DAF) we set up several years ago. With a DAF, you can donate an appreciated asset then dole out funds to charities of your choice. We maximize the tax advantages by donating to DAF in years when we itemize rather than taking the standard deduction in subsequent years. Another advantage of DAF is you can donate anonymously and stay off mailing lists.

Because of the coronavirus quarantine, demand for the HHA’s services has skyrocketed. Together we can make a difference. In addition to devastating economies, COVID-19 has been a psychic burden around the world. A way to alleviate mental strain is to find gratitude daily. A devastating fire roared through South Walton and many families lost their homes but thankfully no one died. Help if you can.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP, can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.