Pasco County commissioners agreed to disperse federal funds for a navigation center that will work with the homeless population to find permanent housing, health care and jobs.
About $250,000 will be used to remodel the former Boys & Girls Club buildings on Youth Lane in Port Richey. Approximately $70,000 will be used to hire a staff member, possibly a program specialist, for the homeless program for adult men and women only.
Commissioners approved the funds at their Aug. 15 meeting in Dade City.
Their vote came after a nearly two-hour public comment period where county commissioners heard from supporters and opponents.
It is the location, more than the concept, which is at the heart of the dispute. The county proposes to reopen the two-building campus at the end of Youth Lane, off Little Road. The site is adjacent to Ridge Plaza, which is anchored by Hobby Lobby and a Walmart Neighborhood Supermarket.
Crane’s Roost, a subdivision of about 90 homes, is on the opposite side of Little Road.
Residents say the navigation center will hurt property values, increase crime, and make them less safe.
“Our fears are not unfounded. We do have the right to feel safe in our communities,” said Valerie Schaefer, who has lived in Crane’s Roost about 20 years.
Advocates for the center say Pasco has been too slow in responding to the needs of more than 3,000 homeless people who live on the streets, in vehicles and within about 100 encampments across the county.
The Youth Lane site is located by bus stops, government offices and agencies that can provide needed services.
“A lot of them need help with jobs and help with moving on, on their own,” said Raine Johns, chief executive officer of the Homeless Coalition of Pasco County. “It has to be somewhere in the county. This is the perfect location for it.”
The coalition is slated to operate the center. County commissioners will be asked at a later day to transfer the site’s property deed to the coalition.
The goal is to relocate homeless people, one camp at a time. Adult men and women would temporarily live at a “low-barrier” shelter while case managers work to assess their needs, and find permanent housing.
Families wouldn’t be eligible.
Johns estimates average stays of 90 days or less.
The navigation center is expected to open by mid-2018.
Published August 30, 2017