TAMPA, Fla. — Thousands of women, men and children experience homelessness every year in Tampa, according to Catholic Charities. It's an issue the City of Tampa is working to address, working with local organizations to do it.
Tampa Hope is a local organization that provides people with transitional housing. It's run by Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Petersburg.
"So it's a transitional housing phase where they get as much help as they need while they're here, the program coordinator, Eric Marrero, said. "Each individual experiencing homelessness, the end goal is for them to get housed."
Tampa's homeless outreach program is now expanding, meaning more people can get the resources and help they need.
"If we're not out with those folks on an immediate call, we're out and engaging anyway. We're trying to find out where people are and what's going on in the community," Todd Nutbrown, the community services coordinator for Tampa's homeless outreach program, said.
For the first time, the program now has community liaisons. Their job is to find and provide resources to those who need them. The city of Tampa reports receiving two to three calls per day.
Tampa Hope has 100 tents to provide transitional housing. The organization is fundraising to construct 200 'Hope Cottages' as another solution to help those experiencing homelessness.
For the people currently housed through Tampa Hope, it's a second chance.
“We’d be living on the streets," Jimmy Hester said when asked where he'd be without help from Tampa Hope.
Hester is living in one of the 100 tents. He moved in roughly three months ago after losing everything in Indiana.
“It’s scary," Hester said. "Sometimes I just wake up in the middle of the night thinking about what could’ve happened if it wouldn't have been for Tampa Hope being here."
The expanded program and partnership with Tampa Hope are meant to help people get back on their feet, starting with a safe place to sleep.
“It’s been a real uplifting experience for me and my wife," Hester said. "Thank God they were here.“
Hester shared he and his wife are on their way to getting back into traditional housing, with the both of them now working.
If you'd like to join the conversation on how the city is addressing homelessness, the City of Tampa is hosting a discussion tomorrow from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the HCC Ybor Performing Arts Building.