I had a conversation with a gentleman the other day about the homeless population in the area. He was telling me about a strip mall near him that has a soup kitchen. He was explaining that at all times of the day, there are homeless individuals loitering in the area. With limited resources of soup kitchens, individuals will often stay in the area to make sure they are helped. He complained of the panhandling and how they would sleep in the area. This is a problem. It can have a negative impact on businesses in that area and make people nervous.
We also discussed the homeless navigation center that is in the works for Pasco. He agreed with the idea of getting homeless individuals some help and getting them moved on. This is the purpose of the center. Individuals would be there for no more than 90 days receiving assistance and coaching before being moved on to affordable housing or elsewhere. The issue he took with the center was the location. He did not feel comfortable with the center being so close to a residential area and a school/ park. If you consider his issues with the soup kitchen, you can see why he would oppose the location. No residential neighborhood wants a homeless population camping out in their area as it can have an impact on home values. There aren't a great deal of parents that would be comfortable with a homeless camping spot near where their children play either. That is what this gentleman envisions.
If the center receives enough funding to help a sufficient amount of individuals at once, it would alleviate the problem of having a homeless camp site near the center. But, there's no guarantee that funding would remain sufficient for this cause for the life of the center. We need to do what we can to help the homeless population. These are often people who simply fell on hard times and couldn't recover. They are not all drug or alcohol addicts. We can't turn our back on our fellow neighbors. That doesn't mean we should ignore the valid complaints of these homeowners. Alternative sites should be evaluated before making the decision. Sheriff Nocco has stated the old jail is not a suitable site, but there may be others. Also to be looked into are things that can be done at the navigation center to help make the nearby residents feel more secure- fencing, more patrols, etc.
The issue I see arising with the center is the transition into affordable housing. The House currently seeks to reallocate the affordable housing budget for alternative services. The budget for affordable housing is already tight and many individuals still struggle even with affordable housing as wages are low and rent is high. If we don't focus on making affordable housing actually affordable and fund the program properly, the homeless navigation center will end up being simply a revolving door of the same people going in and out because they can't afford it when their time is up.
The homeless navigation center is a truly honorable project that is absolutely needed. There is so much more to it than its basic idea though and we need to make sure we do what is needed to ensure it achieve its goal without sacrificing the needs of the residents nearby. We need to listen to their concerns and make sure they are addressed. It is only when the community comes together that issues can truly be resolved.
We need to ensure we aren't making promises to the homeless population that the Florida budget won't allow us to fulfill. Make your voices heard! Make it known to our current legislatures that stripping money from addordable housing damages communities and makes it harder for us to help people move on.