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Hillsborough County leaders discuss homelessness, housing crisis

Hillsborough County leaders hold homelessness panel
Posted at 10:36 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 15:33:59-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Tuesday night local leaders and housing experts held a panel to talk about how the rising price of paradise is forcing some people onto the streets and keeping others from accessing vital services to end the cycle of homelessness.

According to Hillsborough County leaders, 612 people struggled with homelessness in the area in 2020.

As leaders work to tally that number for this year, they fear that it will start to increase as housing costs and the population continue to rise

"Our biggest barrier is around affordable housing," Metropolitan Ministries' Christine Long said. "We have to have places to move people to."

To help talk about the issue and what is being done, they held a panel discussion Tuesday.

In addition to addressing affordable housing, leaders said they're working to increase access to mental health and addiction services and using arrests as a last resort for the chronically homeless.

“That’s the last way we want to address homelessness is through incarceration," Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said.

And while those things are important, one woman who attended says there should also be a greater emphasis on basic hygiene access for those in need.

"Even if we support them and give them a place for an interview or support them with an outfit to go for a job, taking a shower is not a privilege it's a need," Mercedes Young said.

Young adds that she was also inspired to learn that there were ways she could support people experiencing homeless with her time and money.

And she encourages others to do the same.

"Some of the things that I found out today was that really if everybody in Hillsborough County would put [point] one percent of their salary and donate, it would really take away the homeless problem that we have," she said.