Hillsborough County is the fourth largest county in Florida with 1,266 square miles, and it encompasses the city of Tampa. Despite the beautiful weather and picturesque beaches, Hillsborough County faces serious challenges regarding residents living in poverty and experiencing homelessness. According to a 2012 report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Tampa-St. Petersburg area has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the United States. In a 2017 report from the United Way, 42% of households in Hillsborough County are failing to meet their basic needs, which translates to around 210K households either living in poverty having jobs that do not allow them to cover their basic living needs.
In addition to the high number people living below the poverty line, Hillsborough County has made significant strides to gain a better understanding of their homelessness crisis. Through the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, since 2013 there has been an annual point in time count of those individuals experiencing homelessness. Through this coordinated effort, the county has seen a slight drop in the number of homeless individuals from 2013-2017. As of February 2017, there were 1,549 individuals sheltered or unsheltered in Hillsborough County. Additionally, there were 479 families with 3,316 children enrolled in county schools who are by definition homeless. This data has allowed providers to understand more about the trends of homelessness in the county, and collaborate to provide services to individuals, children, and families experiencing homelessness.
There are many serious challenges facing individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Hillsborough County, including inconsistent access to affordable housing, income insecurity, lack of adequate childcare, food and other basic needs. To address these challenges there is a coordinated network of human service providers and community organizations committed to providing supportive interventions with the goal of ultimately ending homelessness in Hillsborough County. The Tampa 1st Service Platoon is partnering with organizations leading the charge to develop and implement best practices for supporting individuals and families who are experiencing homeless. With one of the most significant barriers to permanent housing being access to affordable housing, it is a natural fit for the platoon to work with Habitat for Humanity Hillsborough County to increase the number of affordable homes in the area. Through their 31 years of affiliation, the Hillsborough Chapter of Habitat for Humanity has built or renovated more than 200 homes. The Tampa 1st Service Platoon will partner with Habitat for Humanity Hillsborough County to build 13 homes throughout 2018. Additionally, the platoon will partner with other organizations addressing the needs of homeless and impoverished residents of Hillsborough County including Trinity Café, ECHO, and Baylife Ministries. Each of these organizations supports individuals experiencing homelessness with their basic needs—food, clothing, toiletries, school supplies, and cold weather sheltering.
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