They are taking care of their own.
Over the past year, local organizations, churches, charities and citizens, have formed The Hub Taskforce. It’s a coalition of like-minded individuals, either representing a place in Zephyrhills or Dade City or just themselves, that comes together monthly to discuss initiatives and how to get more resources to the homeless community.
“This is a group effort — a community effort,” Zephyrhills Police Chief Derek Brewer said. “When we started over a year ago, we just started meeting to talk about resources and where we wanted to go as a group. It has snowballed into something much more.”
At first, the taskforce was small and it reached out to the Pasco County Coalition for the Homeless. However, Brewer says it was evident that that group was “stretched pretty thin” and the community, at large, was looking for ways to make an immediate impact on their streets.
“We’ve learned over the years that you can’t rush away homelessness,” Brewer said, “and we wanted a humanitarian approach to it.”
Brewer admits, especially in the meetings, that his officers will be the first line in meeting with homeless people. Which is why he wanted to address the issue in a way that doesn’t involve escalation or even incarnation.
So, the taskforce sets about finding ways to help the homeless, by either getting them the resources they need at the moment, such as a food bank or a shelter.
“We want to get them out of the situation, that way they’re not just sitting in jail,” Brewer added.
Over time, more and more organizations, charities and businesses have joined or attended the meetings. The August meeting was well-attended, and joining the Zephyrhills Police Department (ZPD) was the Zephyrhills Women’s Club, Meals on Wheels Zephyrhills, Pasadena Food Pantry in Dade City, United Methodist Women of Zephyrhills, Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church Food and Baby Pantries, Premier Community HealthCare, First Presbyterian Church of Zephyrhills, Pasco County Schools Students In Transition (SIT) Program, Healing Hearts Cafe, Palm Medical Center for Seniors, and Samaritan Project in Zephyrhills.
The roundtable discussions will present new or recurring issues and those attending will offer solutions. The goal is to find resources and ways to help the homeless, with potential options to improve their lives.
“There are new people every single month, and it’s about what they can offer us, what we can offer them,” Brewer said. “Someone has an issue, everyone jumps on top of it to help. That’s the goal.”
Others are going a step further. Mechell Alline, a local entrepreneur, life coach and aneurysm survivor, has been putting together helpful backpacks that include supplies like snacks and water, but also resource materials that could lead the homeless person to charities and organizations that might help their specific need.
Members of the taskforce will take a backpack and hand it out to a homeless person. Alline made 12 backpacks at the most recent meeting, paying for them out of her own pocket.
“My intention (with the backpacks) was to make people feel like they are human beings by providing some comfort — it was something I really wanted to do,” she said. “It feels good to be a part of something that’s working toward helping the people in the community who really need it.”
Other members of the taskforce are looking for ways to involve the city more. For the police department, “it’s typical for law enforcement to be thrust into this because we’re the ones making contact with them,” Brewer says, adding “unfortunately we don’t have all the resources available to us.”
“As the officers are coming in contact with them, we want to be able to say, ‘I know who you can call’ and it doesn’t matter if they need clothing or food or shelter or even a backpack.”
However, the taskforce is hoping to get more city representatives to the meetings, as a way to get their feedback and suggestions on solutions.
“I would like to see a little more involvement from the city, especially if we’re addressing this as a city issue and not just a police one,” said Becky Finley, who represents St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Food and Baby Pantries.
In the end, the taskforce sees homelessness as a community, a city and a citizen issue. One that should be solved by their own in the community.
“This is a great group of individuals with the same goal in mind and that’s to help people,” Brewer said. “I didn’t realize the impact these individuals can and will make, until I started meeting with them. They are entrenched in the community, and really care about what happens here.
“They are Zephyrhills people trying to take care of Zephyrhills people.”
The Hub Taskforce
When: Every third Wednesday of the month, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Genesis Community Center, 38112 15th Ave., Zephyrhills
Details: A monthly roundtable of Zephyrhills community, local organizations and citizen representatives that meet to discuss initiatives to help the homeless and poor, and to share other resources to contribute to the city-wide effort. Anyone from the community is welcome to attend.
Info: Call Beth Aker at 813-782-7859.
Published September 07, 2022