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Experts on homeless issues to address Hillsborough panel

TAMPA — Two national experts focused on finding solutions for homeless issues are speaking Tuesday morning at the University Club of Tampa to local leaders who are working to fight the problem here.

The speakers are:

•Philip F. Mangano, president and chief executive officer of the American Round Table to Abolish Homelessness in Boston. He previously served under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama as executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

•Tod Lipka, president and CEO of Step Up on Second, a large program that helps and houses those with chronic mental health issues in Santa Monica, Calif. Lipka is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

The two men will address a group of Tampa Bay business leaders and public officials called Steps Forward, which got its start more than two years ago after Tampa Tank Inc. CEO Calvin Reed told then-Mayor Pam Iorio about a good homeless assistance facility he saw in Texas. The issue of how to solve the homeless problems in Tampa has been contentious, with restrictions on panhandling and sleeping in parks or sidewalks.

The facility Reed noted used a model called "housing first." Instead of outreach on the streets, the method provides chronically homeless adults with a roof over their heads first, plus counseling, medical assistance and help with applying for jobs or social services. The idea is that this is a better and cheaper way to keep the population out of emergency rooms and jails. Federal officials define a chronically homeless person as someone with a disabling condition who has been homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years. It's a description that fits about 700 people in Hillsborough County.

"They've got mental health issues," County Commissioner Sandra Murman previously told the Times. "They've got substance abuse. If you don't have a case manager for these individuals it's going to fail and that's the beauty of this project. It really offers a comprehensive plan for these individuals to learn to live on their own."

Iorio and County Administrator Mike Merrill organized a study group of local officials and business executives, including Reed, Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke, insurer M.E. Wilson Co. president Guy King and others.

With money from the county, the business community and federal community development funds, the group rehabilitated a few dozen apartments for the homeless on N 15th Street just west of University Mall. They opened in January. There is an on-site manager to help assist the tenants. The group plans to expand the program throughout the area and hopes to have 500 units for the chronically homeless in the next few years.

Experts on homeless issues to address Hillsborough panel 09/17/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 1:14pm]
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