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How Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller responded to the Times' questions on homelessness




COMMISSIONER: Lesley "Les" Miller Jr.


PARTY: Democratic



PHONE: (813) 272-5720

Question 1: Has the county done a good job of addressing homelessness since you've been on the board?

Miller didn't specifically respond to this question but provided the statement below.

Question 2: Should the county spend more money or commit more resources to getting people off the streets?

Miller didn't specifically respond to this question but provided the statement below.

Question 3: Should the county take the lead in bringing others in Hillsborough County, for example, the Tampa city council and the sheriff's office, together to hammer out a plan for tackling homelessness?

Miller didn't specifically respond to this question but provided the statement below:

We recognize that homelessness is a complex community issue that requires a broad-based coalition of partners to develop and implement solutions. That coalition starts with the revitalized Tampa-Hillsborough Homeless Initiative. This is the embodiment of a partnership between Hillsborough County, City of Tampa, private sector leaders and non-profits with the goal of establishing an effective, efficient and unified approach to assisting the homeless and to preventing others from becoming homeless. It is important that we acknowledge the expertise of those agencies in our community that already have "boots on the ground" experience helping our most vulnerable citizens, and work more closely with them.

In order to be able to transition to a new service delivery model, there first had to be corrective actions taken with the existing Homeless Recovery Program. These actions included a facility inspection requirement, establishing formal case management procedures, increasing rental assistance payment levels and an audit of rental payments by the County.

While attention has been focused on the Homeless Recovery Program and its operating budget of $1.2 million, it is important to note that the total amount of funding from all county sources to assist homeless individuals and non-profits serving the homeless in FY 13 exceeded $5.5 million. This amount includes all grants and ad valorem funding.

In May of 2013, the former Homeless Coalition (now Tampa-Hillsborough Homeless Initiative) released the results of its 2013 homeless count which showed 2,275 literally homeless people in Hillsborough County, indicating a 47% decline from the 2011 count. While the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2012 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress had listed Hillsborough County as having the highest rate of homelessness in its category, the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report removed Hillsborough County from the list entirely due to the decrease in our homeless population.

Counts prior to 2013 included children residing with families or others, thereby increasing the overall homeless count. That discrepancy has been corrected in the 2011 and 2009 counts, and overall counts declined. Previously, counts were conducted every two years; but beginning in 2014, counts will be taken annually, which will provide a more accurate baseline.


Past Actions

In a memo dated September 6, 2013, County Administrator Mike Merrill outlined the swift actions he was taking to correct deficiencies that had led to substandard treatment of homeless residents. Key actions included:

• Oversight of the Homeless Recovery Program was immediately transferred to Affordable Housing Services. Affordable Housing managers enacted and trained staff in standard procedures for case management and improved customer service.

• Properties selected by clients must pass a new City of Tampa or Hillsborough County Code Enforcement inspection before County funded rental assistance is paid. Both agencies are now active partners in the process, inspecting all facilities to ensure they are safe and inhabitable.

• Rental assistance payments have been raised to the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Department levels to attract more housing providers.

• A County Audit of rental payments is currently underway.

• The Homeless Recovery Office will permanently close on December 31, 2013. Homeless clients can receive assistance at one of five Neighborhood Service Centers in the County, where the Homeless Prevention Program is also managed (for those in danger of becoming homeless).

Future Initiatives

• Hillsborough County is embarking on a new service delivery model and is currently reviewing applications from experienced agencies to provide emergency/bridge housing and other, wrap-around services to the homeless or other qualifying individuals.

• Funding from the Homeless Recovery Program will be utilized to pay service providers, who will have to demonstrate results as outlined in service contracts.

• Tampa-Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, working with the County, is developing an inventory of suitable housing options and a coordinated intake and assessment system for better case management.

• The County has provided funding for a new software system, UNITY, required by HUD to track homeless clients and services provided, as well as available housing.

• As part of the Tampa-Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, the County will support the request for additional HUD funding for homeless programs.

How Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller responded to the Times' questions on homelessness 12/27/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 3, 2014 10:59am]
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