BRADENTON, Fla. — For decades homelessness has been a problem in Manatee County. In the past year, leaders said skyrocketing rents and home prices have left many with nowhere to go.
"The individuals who are doing the heavy lifting, if you will, our public service employees, our law enforcement, our teachers, our nurses, our county employee who are here doing a lot of the work are finding it hard to live within these communities," Manatee County community and veteran services director Lee Washington said.
Glen Gibellina has been advocating for more affordable housing solutions for decades, he even turned old shipping containers into transitional housing for homeless veterans, and he believes the county needs to do more.
"A day late and a dollar short. We’re between 30,000-50,000 units behind for the working class," Gibellina said.
Now, homelessness has become an even bigger issue. The county says homelessness has increased by 25% since last September, and more than 60% of those families are homeless for the first time.
However, Manatee leaders are taking strides to help. They created a new homeless task force that will help the many organizations working with the homeless and needy, come together.
"To have more collaboration so we’re not stepping over each other and duplicating services and we’re using the taxpayer's dollars wisely," Washington said.
As for the affordable housing crisis, Gibellina believes one solution lies with the developers who are building new homes.
"We have to give the developers an ultimatum," he said. "If you want to build 100 homes and you’re only allowed 75 and you want the higher density, then you have to pay the difference in the 25." We’ve been giving them the density for nothing in return. So, give us $25,000 per house and we’ll go find a place to build affordable housing."
The county says there is no one answer to fix the problem but they’re hopeful this new task force will help everyone come together to work on solutions.
"It's not something the government can fix on its own. It's going to take creative ideas of thinking outside of the box," Washington said.