TAMPA, Fla. — On any given night there are thousands of men, women and children who don't have a place to call home in the Tampa Bay area.
The housing crisis is making it extremely difficult for people to find a place to live, but leaders with the city of Tampa and the Tampa Hope Catholic Charities are working to change that with more homeless shelters.
A new homeless shelter opened in Dec. 2021 with 50 tents and now have a total of 100 that will remain in place. These offer a safe place to stay for those who are looking for permanent housing.
Jackie Henderson and her husband moved into one of those tents a few months ago.
Henderson said living in the tent has given her a sense of peace as she and her husband work on their next move. Before they moved into the outside shelter, they were hopping from one hotel room to the next after they were financially forced out of their apartment last year.
"My husband and I had a place and they decided to double the rent on us, and we just couldn't afford it any longer," Henderson said.
The couple is just one of a hundred stories filling the tents.
Within the next year, Hope Cottages will add an additional 200 spaces for people to stay. The structures will feature beds, air conditioning, and can withstand hurricane-force winds.
Todd Nutbrown is a community outreach liaison with the city of Tampa and said the need is always there and has seen the diversity of homelessness change over the years.
"I think the one thing that I am seeing is a lot of the calls that we're getting may not be chronic homeless individuals but people who are newly or working and going through the housing situation," Nutbrown said. "We have to have an ownership to each other. Once you lose that, you kind of lose humanity."
People who are experiencing homelessness typically stay in the tents for about a month and a half.
During that time, they have access to showers, laundry, and resources to get them into permanent housing.
For Henderson, she said knowing she has a safe place to lay her head has taken a large burden off her shoulders and said she can now focus on her mental health and moving forward.
She has hopes of becoming an airplane mechanic and she and her husband are set to start financial literacy classes.
"There are people here as young as 21 and as old as 85 and you know on different legs of their life," she said. "So, it's not simply because we're lazy and we don't want to do anything. It's because circumstances in our lives has caused us not to be able to."
Tampa Hope Catholic Charities relies on donations to provide housing for those experiencing homelessness. To learn more about the organization, how to help, or find assistance visit ccdosp.org/tampa-hope.
Tampa City leaders plan to hold a panel on homelessness on Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the HCC Ybor Performing Arts Building (1411 East 11th Ave, Tampa). Members of the public can watch the panel discussion.