ZEPHYRHILLS — The homeless ministry at the Chancey Road Christian Church is bursting at the seams — and its location on the outskirts of town is a hike for people who need food and shelter.
Every day people line up at Alice Hall to catch a bus to the church, where they get two meals and a place to sleep through the Zephyrhills-Wesley Chapel Ministerial Association's Samaritan Project. The effort helps more than 1,000 people a week.
The Rev. Tim Mitchell approached Zephyrhills officials Monday evening to explore moving the program to the center of town, where many of the homeless and indigent clients come from.
"I know a thousand people a week is just the beginning," said Mitchell, senior minister at the Chancey Road Christian Church and treasurer of the nonprofit Samaritan Project. "That could grow 10 times. So, where do we go from here?"
For starters, City Council member Manny Funes and president Lance Smith agreed to go to Lakeland in January to see how a similar homeless shelter works there.
While some Lakeland residents initially objected to that facility, the disapproval seems to have died down, Smith said.
"You're always going to have some opposition," Smith said at the council meeting Monday evening. "But we need to do what's right for the community."
Funes said moving the Samaritan Project into the city limits would be a good idea, but finding a location could be a challenge. The nonprofit enjoys some community support, though: The Rotary Club of Zephyrhills DayBreak made a monetary donation to the group, and a cluster of Zephyrhills High School students at the meeting vowed to pitch in.
A woman came to City Hall recently to request more picnic tables at Zephyr Park, where she feeds homeless people who gather there during the day, City Manager Steve Spina said. He said there's definitely a need for a group like the Samaritans who offer a hot meal and a warm bed to those in need.
"It might be nice to have a consolidation of services," Smith said.