Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Proposed veterans shelter opposed by Pasco neighborhoods

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Rev. Morson Livingston has spent the past few years combing the woods and homeless camps of Pasco County, trying to connect veterans to services that can help. What they need most, he said, is a place where they can get back on their feet.

"Generally they (veterans) are good hearted, wonderful people who just are down on their luck," said Livingston, who served as a U.S. Army chaplain in Bosnia and later founded the St. Jude's Homeless Veterans Resource Center. "They have helped us by serving our country, and this is a way of giving back to them."

His nonprofit group wants to locate a veterans resource center in the former Immanuel Lutheran Church at Ridge Road and Sycamore Drive. The proposed facility would have a transitional housing unit with 30 beds, plus job counseling, marriage counseling and other services provided by volunteers.

But Livingston's idea has provoked opposition from residents of the Tanglewood neighborhoods as well as Golden Acres and Hidden Lakes, who worry that the veterans will wander the streets when they don't have activities going on, and that their own properties will lose value if the area gets rezoned.

"We have nothing against veterans, but we don't want them in our back yards," said Tanglewood East resident Misty Hart, one of about 100 neighbors who raised their concerns at a town hall meeting Tuesday night.

The former church site would need a change in land use, from residential to agricultural residential with a conditional use, in order to open the center. Livingston's group has applied for the change.

The county's Planning Commission is tentatively slated to consider the proposal May 11. The County Commission would have the final say at a later date.

"Our major concern is they don't have a plan in place, they have no idea," Hart said. "We have asked for a handbook with rules and regulations. They have no concept of what they are trying to do right now, and they want to do it close to schools and in a residential neighborhood."

Livingston's group said they do have a plan: They're following the guidelines given by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for a transitional housing facility. He said the VA has approved a grant to help buy the building, and would also provide the operational funding.

According to the group's written proposal, veterans would undergo a background check before entering the facility. No one with a serious criminal past, such as a sex offender or violent criminal, would be admitted. Nor would anyone who tested positive for drugs. Residents would receive mental health evaluations and "treatment to stabilize them" so they "are deemed functional," the proposal said.

Residents would also have to comply with behavioral rules, including a dress code.

Livingston would call the facility the "Home of the Brave." He emphasized it would be not be a homeless shelter, but a transitional facility to get veterans back into "civilian life."

To underscore that the facility will not be a homeless shelter, Livingston said his group dropped "homeless" from its name about three weeks ago. The group is now called the St. Jude's Veterans Resource Center.

Neighbors question whether the group knows how to run such a facility. They grew frustrated, for instance, that Livingston wouldn't say how often veterans would undergo drug testing.

"None of them are qualified to run a facility like this," Hart said. "They claim that none of them have ever done it."

County Commissioner Henry Wilson, whose district includes the site, said he met with the Harts and their attorney Tuesday, and he is planning to meet Livingston next week. But it may be hard to find a middle ground.

"There is nothing that will change these citizens' minds," Wilson said.

Jacqueline Baylon can be reached at or (727) 869-6247.

Proposed veterans shelter opposed by Pasco neighborhoods 04/15/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 15, 2011 2:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Insurance regulators fret over a spike in auto glass claims


    TALLAHASSEE — Three months ago, state regulators weren't tracking a surge in broken auto glass claims, particularly in Tampa Bay.

    The issue has their attention now.

    The Office of Insurance Regulation is taking on assignment of benefits abuse in the 2018 legislative session. Pictured is Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier. | [Times file photo]
  2. Rick Baker lowers expectations before St. Pete mayoral primary


    ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Baker officially lowered expectations in the mayoral race on Tuesday, saying his “battle for the future of the city” against Mayor Rick Kriseman might last until November.

    Baker has consistently led in local polls and fundraising totals this summer. But at a fundraiders …

    Rick Baker addresses supporters on Beach Drive Tuesday
  3. What you need to know for Wednesday, Aug. 23


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Music producer Kevin Erondu, 31, who grew up in Dade City, rose to prominence after creating the beat to "Swag Surfin'," a 2009 club hit that still inspires viral videos today.
  4. Drawing nears for Powerball jackpot that's climbed to $700 million


    DES MOINES, Iowa — The estimated jackpot for Wednesday night's Powerball lottery game has climbed to $700 million, making it the second-largest in U.S. history.

    The estimated jackpot for the Powerball lottery drawing on Aug. 23, 2017, has climbed to $700 million, making it the second-largest in U.S. history. [Associated Press]
  5. 'Swag Surfin' producer: 'It's very weird… they're still playing the song' eight years later

    Music & Concerts


    Kevin Erondu doesn't often go to night clubs. Yet, across America, he drives people to the dance floor. He's 31 years old, but he still has the ear of college students, and while he's no pro athlete, they leap to their feet when he joins them in the gym.

    Originally from Dade City, music producer Kevin Erondu, 31, rose to prominence after creating the beat to Swag Surfin’, a 2009 club hit that still inspires viral videos today.