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Gov. Rick Scott should not have vetoed Pasco homeless plan

You begin at the back of the line. That's practically a given.

When you're an advocate for the homeless, you learn to wait your turn and lower your expectations. You provide every answer, and avoid any assumptions.

And it is only in those rare moments when everything seems to be falling in place that you ponder the possibility of something special coming your way.

All of which explains why Monday was such a huge disappointment for Metropolitan Ministries in Pasco County.

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a $1.3 million line item in the state budget that would have funded a transitional housing project for families in need.

Honestly, this should not have been a longshot. It should not have been an automatic chop.

While it is true a homeless project does not necessarily fit the governor's philosophical sensibilities (he vetoed programs in numerous counties on Monday) there were reasons to believe this one had a chance to succeed.

To begin with, the homeless problem in Pasco County is arguably as severe as anywhere in the state. Exact figures are difficult to come by, but a recent report suggests there are far more homeless people per capita in Pasco than in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach or any of Florida's other population centers.

When you consider Metropolitan Ministries does not routinely seek state funds and has a proven track record with a transitional housing project in Tampa, this seemed like it might be the rare social program that would appeal to Scott.

It also had the support of Rep. Mike Fasano and Rep. Richard Corcoran, a pair of high-profile Republicans in the state House.

"It seemed like the right combination of opportunity and need. It felt like everything was lined up,'' said Metropolitan Ministries president Tim Marks. "We thought this was going to be the last piece of the puzzle.''

The idea behind the project is to provide temporary housing for families that have fallen on hard times. The 24-unit complex would provide a safe shelter for children while their parents sought jobs and found permanent homes.

Metropolitan Ministries was provided the designs for the building by Rich Bekesh, president of Spring Engineering, and got $100,000 in donations from car dealer Scott Fink and Generations Christian Church. Fasano said the county also pledged $600,000.

"We're always hearing from those in Tallahassee that we need more private-public partnerships, and this was a perfect example of the community and corporate sponsors coming together,'' Fasano said. "It's disappointing to me that the governor would approve of $5 million for a rowing regatta in Sarasota but veto dollars that could have helped some people find jobs and get back on their feet.''

The hope was that groundbreaking for the project would have been early in 2014. That looks impossible at this point, but Marks said Metropolitan Ministries may continue with a project to build a kitchen to feed the homeless.

"When I went to church (on Sunday) the sermon was about how God's timing is not always going to be the same as your timing,'' Marks said. "For me, it turned out to be a very timely message.

"So, for now, we'll regroup and see what other miracles might be out there to get this idea back on track.''

Gov. Rick Scott should not have vetoed Pasco homeless plan 05/20/13 [Last modified: Monday, May 20, 2013 11:33pm]
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