Catholic Charities’ Tampa Hope joined The City of Tampa on May 24, 2022 to discuss homelessness.
On Tuesday, May 24, 2022, The City of Tampa hosted a timely community forum in which local officials and advocates for the homeless discussed the current state of homelessness in the city of Tampa. According to Mayor Jane Castor, “Tampa is a place where residents lift each other up, especially those most in need.”
Community leaders and experts from The City of Tampa gathered in Ybor City for the panel discussion. Panelists including the Chief of Police O’Connor and Kayon Henderson (Mgr. of Housing & Community Development) and Hillsborough County housing leadership (Felicia Crosby-Rucker, Dir. of Homelessness & Community Services). They were joined by the CEO of Tampa Housing & Homelessness Initiative (THHI) and leaders from Metropolitan Ministries, Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg (Executive Director Maggie Rogers) and the Tampa Housing Authority. The group discussed the root causes of homelessness, what is being done to address homelessness and what are the obstacles to succeeding in the fight to end homelessness. Kicking off the forum, Adam Smith, Communications Director for the City of Tampa, said, “Our goal here tonight is to shine the light on what’s happening, what we see coming down the pike and to hear from the public.”
Mayor Jane Castor and her Chief of Staff, John Bennett, address the crowd with their observations and commitment to addressing the problem. According to Mayor Castor, “Our administration is focused on transforming Tampa’s tomorrow: affordable housing, transportation, workforce development and an overarching sustainability and resiliency.”
The conversation focused on the problems associated with or leading to homelessness, including drug addiction, mental health issues, the lack of high-wage jobs and the lack of affordable housing. Bennet said, “the business community, the public sector, the private sector, we all need to come together.”
The forum continued with the panelists answering questions on homelessness, the majority submitted by the audience. The conversation ranged from how and where to find the homeless, how to offer shelter, the myriad of wraparound services, resources available and the need for proactive responses. The consensus was threefold: 1) government and the private sector need to work together to tackle homelessness by breaking down silos and sharing resources; 2) we need more affordable housing either through the building of new units or by subsidizing existing housing; and 3) we need sufficient resources to provide the necessary services, including substance abuse and mental health counseling, to address the root causes of homelessness. Importantly, Chief O’Connor emphasized that the police are there to assist and do not wish to incarcerate the homeless.
Catholic Charities, partnered with The City of Tampa, to open Tampa Hope, a homeless shelter for adult community members from Tampa, in December 2021. The shelter currently houses 100 with plans to assist 300 when at full capacity. In addition to providing basic needs: meals, clothing and hygiene, the staff provides the support (wraparound services) needed to assist clients with their goal of moving to permanent, stable housing. Rogers said, “25% of the individuals who have gone through Tampa Hope since December have moved to permanent housing.” The fight to end homelessness does not stop with this new shelter!
After the panel discussion, Ms. Henderson was asked to introduce the new, three-person City of Tampa Homeless Services Team. The city started this program to be able to “reach the people where they are,” according to Team Lead Todd Nutbrown. The team is responsible for outreach to the homeless, working with the Tampa Police Department and private sector social service agencies, like Catholic Charities, who work with the homeless. Their end goal is to provide the homeless with the services they need to return to self-sufficiency.
As we work together as a community to end homelessness for many of our brothers and sisters in need, please join us through your prayers or gifts of advocacy. Follow us on social media @CCharitiesDOSP. Volunteer by calling (813) 333-7269 or donate cash by texting TAMPAHOPE to 91999.
Tampa Hope provides a safe living environment for homeless individuals; providing meals, clothing, counseling and more as they work to return to the path of self-sufficiency. Click here to learn more! To donate cash now, text TAMPAHOPE to 91999. Click here to donate!