Pinellas County Housing leaders are in a desperate dash to find homes for 2,271 people on an affordable housing waiting list. The families are stranded because there aren’t enough affordable apartments willing to take Section 8 housing vouchers.
County leaders are trying to find landlords with vacant units willing to rent to families who need a second chance.
Angela Rosado, her husband, and 5-month-old daughter are staying at the Salvation Army homeless shelter. “You’re constantly scared you’ll end up back on the streets. Especially having a little one, that’s the scariest thing of all," Rosado explained.
Katina White is in a similar situation. She is staying at the St Pete Free Clinic's women's shelter. “It's especially hard when you’re trying so hard. I go to work every day and give it my all,” she explained.
For Rosado and White, all it took was one obstacle to end up in a homeless shelter.
For Rosado, it was a baby on the way and no extra income. For White, a hysterectomy surgery that put her out of work, “And to have that second thought that a shelter just might be your only option is terrifying,” White said.
Both women are running out of time at their respective shelters, and desperately looking for a place to call home. The problem: they’re not alone. More than 2,000 people are on waiting lists for affordable housing in Pinellas County. With so many people moving to Tampa Bay, fewer landlords are taking section 8 vouchers because there are plenty of renters to choose from.
Pinellas county is on a mission to find landlords with vacant units, and convince them to help the thousands of families in need. Landlords, that want to pay it forward like Edgardo Zambrano. “It’s just a good feeling. It’s hard to explain, but it’s just a really good feeling,” Zambrano added.
It's a feeling Zambrano knows well. When he moved to Florida without knowing English, he relied on strangers for help. “Now, I want to help pay it forward. I help them, and they help me too,” he added.
Pinellas County needs your help finding vacancies. Homes, condos, apartments, efficiencies, anything will do. The goal: To give families a second chance.
“Maybe in 10 years I can afford a home because someone gave me this one chance at this stage in my life,” White explained. “If the landlords are just willing to take that one step.”
If you have a vacant unit, and want to help, you can contact the Pinellas County Housing Authority on their website.