CLEARWATER, Fla. — On Wednesday, Hope Villages of America announced it was transitioning a Clearwater homeless shelter to affordable housing units.
Leaders were quick to admit the move is bittersweet as affordable housing offers a long-term solution for low-income families, but the community loses 80 beds meant for homeless people.
Shortly after 10 Tampa Bay's story aired, a pregnant mom of two staying at Grace House reached out. The woman wanted to remain anonymous out of fear she would be kicked out of the shelter sooner.
She says she just found out about Grace House the day before and, "That’s when I started panicking and reaching out to people because I have funding to get into an apartment, but I just can’t find an apartment right now."
The woman said Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) approved her for rental assistance, but she can't find anywhere to go because of 2-3 year wait lists.
She also finds endless scammers and places requiring $300 application fees.
"I don’t know, I’m just going to try to pray and hope things work out for the best," the woman said.
Leaders from Hope Villages of America told reporters families at Grace House will be allowed to finish out their 12-week programs and residents will be given priority for the affordable housing units.
Michael Raposa, the chief executive officer of St. Vincent de Paul CARES says the majority of homeless families they serve are in this position because of root causes that were out of their control.
"I think a lot of this community has this perception, and it’s inaccurate, that somehow, some way homelessness is a choice or a result of making bad choices. The real issue facing our community is not just homelessness, it’s systemic poverty," Raposa said.
Amy Foster with the Homeless Leadership Alliance of Pinellas says finding homeless shelters that keep families together is an ongoing problem in Pinellas County.
"As of tonight, we have 91 families in our community that are sleeping in streets or in cars, many with very small children," Foster said.
Grace House is one of the few shelters that kept families together. It will transition to affordable housing on Oct. 1.