Thursday, April 26, 2018
News Roundup

How Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe responded to the Times' questions on homelessness

 

 

 

COMMISSIONER: MARK SHARPE

DISTRICT: 7

PARTY: Republican

ELECTED: 2004

EMAIL: [email protected]

PHONE: (813) 272-5735

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

The county has begun to successfully pull together the disparate entities that have attempted to deal with this complex community issue in a more coordinated manner. What once was a fragmented effort among service providers is becoming more collaborative and effective. This is integral to improving the quality of services provided, while better safeguarding the integrity of taxpayer dollars used to address this enormous problem.

At the same time, the County has taken steps to correct problems in its Homeless Recovery Program, which represents only a portion of our total funding assistance to address homelessness. Decisions and past placements made by prior management of Hillsborough County's Homeless Recovery Program have revealed some serious deficiencies that are now are being addressed. Some homeless clients were placed in badly maintained rental facilities that lacked adequate inspection. Case management protocols also needed improvement.

In September, County Administrator Mike Merrill outlined the swift actions he was taking to correct these problems.

? Oversight of the Homeless Recovery Program was immediately transferred to the Department of Affordable Housing Services, whose 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.

Moving forward, the County is embarking on a new service delivery model and is currently reviewing applications from experienced non-profit agencies to provide emergency/bridge housing and other, wrap-around services to the homeless or other qualifying individuals. Funding from the Homeless Recovery Program (which will permanently close on December 31) will be utilized to pay service providers, who will have to demonstrate results as outlined in service contracts. Residents will continue to 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.

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

Money alone will not solve this multi-faceted problem. That being said, there is no greater community calling than to help our neighbors in desperate need, and we need to do a better job of working with our partners to direct resources to help the most vulnerable.

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 FY13 exceeded $5.5 million, including all grants and ad valorem funding. Additionally, as part of the Tampa-Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, the County will support the request for additional HUD funding for homeless programs.

Ultimately, we must focus on creating jobs that provide a living wage. That continues to be my focus.

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?

The County has expended enormous energy working to bring a broad-based coalition of community partners together and direct funding to agencies best qualified to aid the homeless. That coalition is being led by 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 and consistent 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.

Working with the County, Tampa-Hillsborough Homeless Initiative is developing an inventory of suitable housing options and a coordinated intake and assessment system for better case management. The County has also provided funding for a new software system, UNITY, required by HUD to allow multiple agencies to track homeless clients and services provided, as well as available housing.

Comments
The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

TAMPA — As the Tampa Bay Lightning waits for the Boston Bruins to come to town for the next round of playoffs, the city’s business community — members large and small — say it has already won the NHL postseason.At WestShore Plaza this week, with blue...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Hernando High student accused of threatening to shoot up school

Hernando High student accused of threatening to shoot up school

BROOKSVILLE — A 17-year-old Hernando High School student was arrested Wednesday for threatening to shoot people at the school, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.The student was serving a suspension at the time of the incident, deputie...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Long wait at Wingstop ends in brawl, hot oil and second degree burns

Long wait at Wingstop ends in brawl, hot oil and second degree burns

TAMPA — A customer visited Wingstop on Sunday night to pick-up his order. What happened next was off-menu:Robert Williams said he suffered second-degree burns on his back and legs after a Wingstop employee threw hot oil on him during a scuffle.Willia...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Orlando man sought in Interstate 4 carjackings captured in Tampa

Orlando man sought in Interstate 4 carjackings captured in Tampa

TAMPA — A 43-year-old Orlando man who was being sought in a string of carjackings along Interstate 4 was captured on Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Majar L. Jones, 43, was considered armed and dangerous and the subjec...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Chris Kunitz brings four Stanley Cups worth of experience to the Lightning

Chris Kunitz brings four Stanley Cups worth of experience to the Lightning

TAMPA – It was the late spring of 2007, days after a much younger Chris Kunitz lifted the Stanley Cup for the first time. He found himself wondering if he would ever be in that position again. Hoping, really."For sure," he said. "It's almost a ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida has one of the highest rates of fatal hit-and-run crashes, study finds

Florida has one of the highest rates of fatal hit-and-run crashes, study finds

Florida is among the top three states with the highest per capita rates of fatal hit-and-run crashes, a new study published on Thursday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found.From 2006 to 2016, the organization examined hit-and-run crashes in...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Wildlife commission rejects letting anglers catch and keep Goliath grouper

Wildlife commission rejects letting anglers catch and keep Goliath grouper

Florida’s wildlife commissioners Thursday shot down a move to allow anglers to catch and keep goliath grouper, the enormous, slow-moving fish that have been protected in state and federal waters since 1990."We’re not looking to have a harvest for the...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Updated: 3 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Orioles, looking to make it a six-pack of W’s

For starters: Rays at Orioles, looking to make it a six-pack of W’s

The Rays take on the Orioles again tonight looking to extend their winning streak to six, which would be their longest since a nine-game streak under Joe Maddon in 2014.And they will send their top starter, RHP Chris Archer, to the mound looking ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

NORRISTOWN — Bill Cosby was convicted Thursday of drugging and molesting a woman in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era, completing the spectacular late-life downfall of a comedian who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV s...
Updated: 3 hours ago