Thursday, June 21, 2018
Public safety

Volunteers count homeless in Hillsborough

TAMPA — Bob Drayton knows how it feels to sleep outside. He knows what it's like to sit on a bench at Lykes Gaslight Square Park and watch people with places to go hustle by.

For more than a year, Drayton was homeless.

On Thursday, he was back at the park, this time as one of about 400 volunteers who spread out across Hillsborough County to count the homeless.

"It's sad seeing all the same faces all the time," Drayton said.

The volunteers went to 11 locations and surveyed the homeless from about 4 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The data will be compiled and released in March, said Lesa Weikel, community relations manager for the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County.

Under federal law, counties are required to report the number of homeless every other year. In 2011, 17,775 people were reportedly homeless in Hillsborough.

The Tampa Bay area, including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, has the highest homelessness rate in the country, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The numbers collected in annual the count are used to expand programs and housing options and to apply for funding.

This year, those identified as "chronically homeless," people who haven't had a home for a year or more, have been homeless four times in three years, or have a disabling condition, will complete a second survey used to prioritize housing options for them.

"It comes down to who is most likely to die on the street," Weikel said.

With clipboards in hand Thursday, the volunteers fanned out to shelters, encampments, streets and parks. They handed ponchos or socks to anyone who completed the survey.

Drayton's team went to Phil Bourquardez Park on Tampa Street.

A woman rummaged through garbage. Several men sprinted across the grass toward a taxi driver who passes by every day with $6, giving $1 to the first six people to reach his cab.

The volunteers also visited Lykes Gaslight park, where about eight homeless people huddled together on benches.

As he counted, Drayton remembered his time on the streets. He became homeless in 2010 and often slept at the old federal courthouse. He credits the Salvation Army, where he found shelter and employment as a maintenance worker, with helping him turn things around.

A few paces away from Drayton was Melissa Brass, a Salvation Army case manager. She interviewed LaSharn Harvey, who said she arrived in Tampa about a week ago.

"Do you have any family with you?" Brass asked her.

Harvey pointed at Sahara, the light brown dog crouched by her side.

Brass shook Harvey's hand before moving on.

Robert Gatlin, 64, sat on a bench nearby surrounded by tattered bags stuffed with blankets and half-empty water bottles. When Brass handed him two pairs of socks, he smiled.

"We don't have socks or underwear," he said. "This is a Rolls-Royce."

Laura C. Morel can be reached at [email protected] or (813)226-3386.

Comments
Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

FORT LAUDERDALE — Authorities in Florida have arrested a suspect in the killing of rising rap star XXXTentacion, who was fatally shot in his luxury BMW electric car as he left an upscale motorcycle dealership.Dedrick Devonshay Williams, 22, of Pompan...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Pasco deputies safely locate missing Holiday autistic teen

Pasco deputies safely locate missing Holiday autistic teen

An autistic boy, who went missing after walking out of his Holiday home on Wednesday night, has been safely located.Jordan Webb, 16, left his home around 11 p.m., according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.He was safely located on Thursday mornin...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

ST. PETERSBURG — Three police lieutenants falsified records about where they were during work hours, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department — a severe violation of ethics for three leaders on the agency’s day shift.The lieutenants claimed ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Brandon man held on $750,000 bail, accused of 100 counts of child pornography

Brandon man held on $750,000 bail, accused of 100 counts of child pornography

A Brandon man has been charged with 100 counts of possession of child pornography after deputies discovered more than 100 images of child pornography on his computer, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Troi Amacher, 29, was arreste...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

LARGO — Vanessa Rodriguez thought she found the right house for her three kids, in the right neighborhood, for the right rent. She signed the lease for April 30, sent a $2,300 money order and planned to move in June 1.Then the delays started. She sai...
Updated: 5 hours ago
15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

TAMPA — The contractors arriving at the Brandon home thought they were meeting with a potential customer. They were wrong.In fact, the would-be clients were undercover detectives and the contractors, lacking a license to ply their trade, left the hom...
Published: 06/20/18
St. Pete police investigating social media threat against Pride event

St. Pete police investigating social media threat against Pride event

ST. PETERSBURG — Police are investigating a threat against St. Pete Pride weekend based on a social media comment left on a Tampa Bay Times story.A Facebook commenter used an alias to post the threat on a story about a pop-up gay club planned for the...
Published: 06/20/18
Driver in fatal Tampa hit-and-run turns himself in

Driver in fatal Tampa hit-and-run turns himself in

TAMPA — The driver who was sought in a fatal hit-and-run on Sunday night has turned himself in.Police say Roger Herelle, 33, told detectives Wednesday he was involved in the crash that killed Sally Ann McClellan Webb, 58.Police had had been seeking t...
Published: 06/20/18
Five guns taken in 30 reported break-ins of unlocked cars in Clearwater

Five guns taken in 30 reported break-ins of unlocked cars in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — Thieves have made off with at least five guns after breaking into unlocked vehicles in recent days, police said Wednesday morning.Over the past three days, a group of people have been breaking into unlocked vehicles across the city. Clea...
Published: 06/20/18
Police investigating body found floating near Davis Islands

Police investigating body found floating near Davis Islands

TAMPA — Police are working to recover a body that was found floating in the water near the Davis Island Sea Basin on Wednesday morning.It is uncertain how the body ended up there, according to police.This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com...
Published: 06/20/18