TAMPA — When politicians and protestors descend on downtown streets for the Republican National Convention, help will be ready for those who call the streets home.
Homeless advocates are making plans, including opening doors throughout the day at the Salvation Army on Florida Avenue, and providing homeless people a place to stow their belongings.
"We'll try to make it easier for them," said Steve Vick, general manager of the Salvation Army in Tampa.
Usually, the Salvation Army's shelter opens at 4:30 p.m. and ushers guests out at 7 a.m. The homeless aren't allowed inside during the day. The shelter, with 130 beds, has been full recently, Vick said.
The Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County, a private, nonprofit organization, is leading efforts during the convention with various programs that serve homeless people.
City officials say they have no plans to round up the homeless.
Rumors that homeless people would be shipped out of town are just that, said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
Edi Erb, interim CEO for the coalition, said 6,400 people were living on the streets in 2011. Most live downtown or nearby.
Typically, they stash belongings in bushes or other hideaways. These bundles of things are at risk with an estimated 15,000 protestors on the streets and 4,000 law enforcement officers securing the area, Erb said.
And more important, Erb worries about the potential for crimes against homeless people. She hopes to place them at existing programs with open beds.
She also hopes to be able to offer more than just a few days off the streets to those who take the offer to vacate during the convention.
But with little time left, options are limited and advocates are still seeking offers from those who could provide shelter and other services.
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.