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Pasco homeless shelter aims to help displaced women and kids

HUDSON — On a rainy day off of U.S. 19, members of some of Pasco County's altruistic organizations gathered to pray.

They bowed their heads, and a man asked God for help in a new venture — a homeless shelter for women and children.

Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services previously ran the shelter but had to find a new owner due to financial issues, and it closed in June.

Catholic Charities took over and plans to incorporate the shelter into a network of low-income apartments and family services already in place in the county.

Frank Murphy, president of Catholic Charities with the Diocese of St. Petersburg, asked for help from the community for the new shelter to prosper at Wednesday's dedication.

"We don't feel there's one answer for all the problems facing the homeless," he said. "But they have to have a next step. It's hard not to get depressed and downhearted without a next step."

Previously, women at the shelter could stay for 30 days.

Catholic Charities sees the shelter as more of a transitional situation, housing women and children for about 240 days if necessary.

Program manager Tomi Steinruck said the shelter can hold about 20 women, depending on family composition.

There are 30 women on a waiting list, she said, and she gets about five calls a day about someone needing a place.

It's the only shelter in the county open to single women and children who aren't victims of domestic violence and can't stay at shelters run by agencies that serve those women.

Steinruck said the women will be expected to do something constructive every day, whether it's going to school or looking for employment.

Eugene Williams, of the Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County, said the shelter will be a part of a "continuum of care," shepherding women from homelessness into self-sufficiency.

He said often women are abandoned by husbands who simply can't provide for their families.

To get the shelter ready, Catholic Charities asked for volunteers from other organizations.

David Duggan is a member of Pinellas Hope.

He found himself homeless after his long-term girlfriend was found dead in a canal in St. Petersburg.

"Alcohol is not the way to grieve," he said. "It depletes all your funds and one day you wake up and life's upside down."

Duggan said helping with the shelter was a way to pay homage to the woman he lost.

"When I heard it was for homeless women," he said, "I signed right up to help."

Pasco homeless shelter aims to help displaced women and kids 09/25/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 26, 2013 7:35pm]

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