A “one-stop navigation center” for the homeless population in Pasco County will provide temporary shelter for families, instead of the initial plan to help single adult men and women.
If opened, the center would be Pasco’s first homeless shelter.
An estimated $100,000 annual cost for around-the-clock security at the facility and neighborhood opposition to the original plan prompted the shift in the shelter’s purpose.
“We realized the need was great for families, and we will have more funding (opportunities) for families,” said Don Anderson, chief executive officer for the Homeless Coalition of Pasco County.
A public meeting to discuss the new concept will be held May 16 at 6 p.m., at the Pasco County Commission board room in New Port Richey. Additional outreach to residents in nearby neighborhoods also is planned.
Commissioners voted on April 24 to continue the public hearing for a conditional use permit for the facility until June 19.
That will allow time to amend the coalition’s application, and to hear from area residents.
Commissioners have been supportive of the project, and previously approved funding to remodel the center.
Commissioner Jack Mariano, however, has been critical of the county’s choice of location.
Residents from Crane’s Roost, a neighborhood of about 90 homes, off Little Road, said the homeless population needs help, but they think the proposed location is wrong.
They worry about increased solicitations, crime and lowered property values.
Business owners at Ridge Plaza, adjacent to the Youth Lane site, have objected, too.
The commission’s boardroom was packed during the public hearing in 2017, with people equally passionate on both sides of the issue.
Advocates for the center point to its location near bus stops, government offices and service agencies as a good fit to help people in need. They also say Pasco County has been unresponsive in the past in meeting the needs of its homeless population, which at times has been counted as high as 3,000 people.
The center would operate at the two-building campus formerly leased by the county to the Boys & Girls Club, at the end of Youth Lane, off Little Road.
Under the initial concept, the goal was to house 50 to 75 homeless adult men and women for an average of 90 days at the navigation center. They would receive help in locating housing, jobs, job training and health care.
A survey by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office found about 100 homeless camps throughout the county. The initiative would focus on one camp at a time.
Under the new plan, the coalition’s “housing first” program would provide temporary shelter to families for 30 days to 60 days.
Anderson said an average stay could be 45 days or less. He anticipates housing about four families to six families at a time.
The coalition’s administrative offices would operate from Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. People would receive help with job training, showers, health care, behavioral health care, case management, resume building and financial literacy.
The only food services provided would be to families staying at the center.
The people who are served at the coalition’s location on Pine Street are polite and respectful, Anderson said.
“They are really looking for services that can help them get out of their situation,” he said.
Anderson said he was hopeful that the new direction for the navigation center will be well-received.
“We really want to take advantage of their (the county’s) willingness to do something in the community for the homeless,” Anderson said.
Published May 2, 2018