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Pasco lands $800,000 in grants to help the homeless

As part of an announcement of competitive grants by federal housing officials Tuesday, Pasco County stands to receive $800,000 for a new Zephyrhills homeless facility, two new sets of apartment vouchers and a drug treatment program.

The money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would pay for five Pasco programs that could serve more than 50 homeless people or families next year.

"Oh my goodness," said Eugene Williams, the executive director of the Homeless Coalition of Pasco. "That's wonderful. That is everything I applied for. You just made my day."

One of the largest Pasco grants is $250,000 to open a long-term housing facility on Chancey Road in Zephyrhills. Run by the Tampa-based Agency for Community Treatment Services, the 15-bed facility would house residents for up to six months. The agency would provide case management or life skills services and would also refer people to drug treatment, mental health counseling or job training.

Last February, the county gave the nonprofit a $300,000 grant to purchase and rehabilitate the facility at 34245 Chancey Road. Tuesday's award would pay for the first year of operations, and Williams said he expects the funding to continue in future years.

HUD officials on Tuesday unveiled $200 million for programs nationwide. None of the programs had been funded by HUD in the past. Officials said the programs are geared toward a new model of treating homelessness that includes finding permanent shelter while also connecting homeless people with services.

"Few approaches work better than permanent, supportive housing," HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said during a conference call with reporters. "By bringing together the housing and the service component … we've been able to be successful at reducing homelessness."

Programs in Florida received $6.8 million. Other Tampa Bay projects include $510,000 for the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough, $300,000 for the Pinellas Hope homeless shelter and $100,000 for 2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares in Clearwater.

Pasco's four other programs include:

• $111,000 for six beds at a facility that has not yet been established for homeless people with drug abuse problems. Currently, Ace Opportunities operates a 20-bed program for women referred by a jail diversion program through the Pasco-Pinellas public defender's office. The new money would allow the group to help men as well.

Clients would be required to find work, volunteer or go to school. Once the program begins in a few months, it would provide housing for up to a year. After people leave a homeless shelter, said executive director Frank Seidl, "we're kind of the next step." The goal is to move to permanent housing afterward.

• $300,000 for housing vouchers and treatment for six families through Baycare Behavioral Health. The vouchers cover four single-bedroom apartments and a pair of two-bedroom apartments. Baycare officials would help people find housing and also provide services such as life skills training or help finding a job. The vouchers would be administered by the Pasco County Housing Authority.

• $137,000 to lease six apartments through the Directions for Mental Health agency. The program would provide newly homeless families with a full rent and utilities stipend for a year, while helping with transportation and case management services. The program would offer one West Pasco apartment and five apartments in East Pasco.

• $20,000 to expand the homeless coalition's ID card program. The cards allow shelters and other service providers to identify people living in homeless camps and to better track who receives services. The cards also let people sign up for services more quickly and let people use mail boxes and laundry facilities at resource centers.

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

Pasco lands $800,000 in grants to help the homeless 03/13/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 9:40pm]

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