TAMPA, Fla. — City of Tampa officials and the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St Petersburg are bringing hope to the homeless with new housing just in time for the holidays.
The team called Tampa Hope is launching a new housing program to house nearly 300 homeless individuals in more permanent facilities than an average shelter, providing the necessary assistance and resources to get them back on their feet.
Darlene Doster has been looking for a place to call home for several years.
“It’s all mine, I get to live by myself. I don’t have to be on top of everybody and everybody don’t have to be on top of me,” Doster said.
Up until now, she was sleeping under a bridge. “You never knew what you were going to eat, you didn’t know where you were going to sleep. You didn’t know if you were going to be able to sleep,” said Doster.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor joined the Catholic Charities staff Monday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, welcoming the first 50 residents.
“Improving access to housing for all Tampa residents is a central part of our Transforming Tampa’s Tomorrow strategy, and I am so proud and grateful to be working with Catholic Charities on this compassionate and innovative program to help people along the path to self-sufficiency,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said in a press release. “It's great to see Tampa booming with economic growth and luxury development, but the Tampa City Council and I believe firmly that this city’s success depends on improving the quality of life for every Tampa resident no matter their current economic status. Tampa Hope will improve and save lives.”
Terry Allen just moved in. He has been experiencing homelessness for three years.
“I don’t have to be outside at night because I'm vision impaired and it’s just a real safe place for me. And I don’t have to worry about the violence and nobody stealing my stuff anymore,” Allen said.
Residents will also be provided food, clothing, transportation, education, employment and benefits assistance, substance abuse and mental health counseling, basic medical care, and case management services.
The Catholic Charities bought the land, the city will contribute the utilities, and Tampa police will provide patrols.
The facility will start with tents, modeled after the temporary tent housing they put up for two months during the COVID-19 pandemic, when they helped 210 people and got 76 of them into permanent housing.
This is the Catholic Charities' second community for the homeless, it’s first is in Pinellas County, where they see about 40-48% of homeless individuals benefit from the assistance and into permanent housing.
The program at 3704 E. 3rd Avenue in East Tampa will provide food, clothing, case managers, transportation, employment assistance, financial counseling, substance abuse and mental health counseling, as well as basic dental and medical care.
City council is contributing $750,000. The Catholic Charities said donations are helping fund the program that will cost $7.3 million to build and run its first year, and about #3 million its second year.
For the launch, most residents will be staying in tents, until they can build out the Hope Cottages and the permanent structure facilities including restrooms, showers, laundry, and a kitchen.
If you’d like to donate to help fund the build-out, click here.
"Hope Cottages™ are 64 square feet with a one or two-person occupancy and are equipped with standard electrical outlets and electrical capabilities required for heat and air conditioning. Hope Cottages are also extremely easy to clean and sanitize.
The cottages are made from recycled and in-organic materials such as aluminum. One benefit of using these materials is that there is no rain-related damage or rot. Additionally, the units are mold and mildew-resistant with a 10+ year material lifespan.
The homes also can withstand winds of 157+ miles per hour (Cat 5) and attach in nine different points in the ground with pull-out rods to maximize stability.
Each Hope Cottage™ features lockable doors and windows, an emergency escape panel, fire extinguisher, CO monitor and smoke detector, air conditioner and heater, bed with mattress, insulated walls, glass windows, electrical outlets, fold-away bed(s) and shelves and storage."