ENHANCES THE CHANCES
An important hearing is to be held before the Hillsborough County Zoning Board next week. It will largely determine whether or not Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg can be of assistance to Tampa and Hillsborough county in addressing the problem of homelessness. The remarkable success of Pinellas Hope in providing safe shelter to a portion of that county’s homeless population is the model we would like to replicate in Hillsborough. If the residents and politicians of the county in the end want nothing of it, then so be it. I would like to answer some of the questions which seem to arise surrounding this issue:
Why does the Diocese (read that “Catholic Charities”) wish to utilize the property on MLK?
Mostly because it is the only piece of unused property in the county which we can donate to this cause. It is unlikely to be used for Church purposes, is along a bus-route which the homeless need if they are to find work and jobs during the day, and arguably in a more commercial than residential neighborhood.
Why does not the diocese mind its own business and leave the homeless to other agencies?
Quite simply, it is a Gospel mandate to care for the sick, naked, hungry, homeless and we now have some experience of working in collaboration and close cooperation with other political entities to launch a successful approach to the problem.
Where does the Diocese get the idea that homelessness is a problem in Hillsborough County?
From pretty reliable and available statistics. Hillsborough’s homeless and street population is almost five times what that of Pinellas is and was.
What makes a project like this successful?
Two things really, the first being it is a totally cooperative effort of the private and public sectors of a community. Without a mutual commitment of sponsor and community, the challenge is too big for one without the other. We can guarantee that if Hillsborough Cares could be up and running, the Churches of the community would assist in feeding and clothing its residents at a very small cost to tax payers. Second, while it is hard to measure the success of projects for the homeless on the basis of those who are helped permanently out of their jobless, homeless situation, a shelter program like this enhances the chances.
What happens if zoning is denied and the civic commitment is not there?
Then we simply tried to do something and failed. We will leave it to history to decide who was right in making and/or opposing the effort.