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Fasano leads push to help Pasco homeless

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County is missing out on $1-million to help the homeless because the community doesn't have a long-range plan to help get people into stable housing.

That includes an $850,000 federal grant and $150,000 from the state, according to a letter state Sen. Mike Fasano sent community leaders Monday.

Fasano, R-New Port Richey, hopes to prod them forward with a June 26 meeting of government, social service and business leaders. The goal: to begin crafting a 10-year plan to reduce homelessness.

"If we fail to address this issue with a viable 'plan', it will have negative consequences for every organization in our community …" Fasano wrote.

Leaders of various cities, county government, the Pasco Building Association and influential real estate agent Dewey Mitchell are invited to the meeting at the United Way of Pasco offices. The Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County is pushing the effort.

In the past decade, the federal government has pressed communities to fight homelessness — and offered millions to help if a plan is created.

Each community is entitled to its share of the funds each year, based on population, demographics and poverty information. But in order to apply for the money, the local agencies must have a detailed plan to address homelessness.

More than 300 places, including Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, have done their plans and received their grants.

"We haven't engaged yet in coming up with a 10-year plan," Fasano said.

Pasco's official homeless counts have gone up, although the size of the population has been difficult to determine.

In February, the coalition counted 4,074 homeless people — up from 1,500 in 2007. But advocates said last year's count could be off, because 3,600 homeless people were counted in 2006.

Coalition officials could not be reached Monday for comment, but Fasano said the group and county community development supervisor Eugene Williams have worked with him to invigorate the push.

As part of the plan, the county must find ways to address other factors that can lead to homelessness — drug abuse or illness, for example — and offer options to help people stay in homes.

The Bush administration began the program to "eradicate" homelessness, combining programs from various federal agencies together to offer services and funding.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6232.

By the numbers

4,074 Number of homeless counted in Pasco County this year.

1,500 Pasco County homeless count in 2007.

3,600 Pasco County homeless count in 2006.

Source: Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County

Fasano leads push to help Pasco homeless 06/09/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 1:47pm]
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