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Rising rent in the Tampa Bay area contributes to homelessness, leaders say

Pinellas Hope director Joe Pondolfino said they are operating above capacity and is seeing people with full-time jobs being priced out of their homes.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — One day, graphic designer David Zidlick had a home that he could afford, and then one day, he didn’t.

“It can happen to you faster than you have any idea,” Zidlick said. “Literally a short conversation on a Sunday afternoon changed my life.”

That conversation is one that more and more people in the Tampa Bay area are hearing each day and learning that their rent is suddenly going up to a price they can’t afford. This then forces them to find a new place within their budget on short notice.

“One bedrooms are going for closer to $2,000 now,” Zidlick said.

Zidlick found his way to Pinellas Hope, a temporary emergency shelter operated by Catholic Charities.

Pinellas Hope Director Joe Pondolfino said they are operating above capacity and he is seeing people with full-time jobs being priced out of their homes.

“We have a lot of people here who leave every morning at six in the morning and they don’t come back until late at night, and they are still looking for a place that they can afford,” he said.

Between rising rent, general inflation and wages not keeping up, Pondolfino said one perfect storm could put you on the streets.

“It could be anybody,” Pondolfino said.

As for Zidlick, he’s currently living what he calls “the tent life,” but said that he still has hope.

“No matter how bad things get, just never give up,” he said.

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