A volunteer group's attempt to wash the masses is being muddied by the unexpected cost of insurance. As Times staff writer Lee Logan reported, Leadership Pasco's gift of two mobile showers to the Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County Inc. sits dormant at a private residence. The coalition can't pay the $2,700 insurance tab, which has kept the showers and trailers parked for several months in the yard of Kim Bogart, the president of the Leadership Pasco class of 2010.
Originally, the coalition, which plans to move the showers among six locations around the county for homeless hygiene, believed each individual site would be covered by its own insurance. Then the underwriter for the Joining Hands Mission said it would cancel the agency's policy if it allowed the shower on its grounds. So much for doing a good deed.
"I knew it would be an issue, but I didn't know it was going to be this complicated,'' said the Rev. Dan Campbell, who heads both the mission and the homeless coalition.
The Knights of Columbus have volunteered to help, and other private donations might be forthcoming. Likewise, an allocation from the federal Community Development Block Grant contribution wouldn't be out of line either.
But those are stop-gap measures for a problem that will reoccur whenever the annual premium comes due. Unfortunately, the problem is also indicative of the larger issue confronting the coalition — the need is greater than the resources.
Final figures for the coalition's annual one-day count of the homeless in January are not yet available, but Campbell said the census revealed an increase in the number of the so-called unsheltered — people living in the woods or other remote spots.
Figures from 2009 showed that more than 4,500 people were homeless on any given day, and that figure failed to account for most of the 2,395 children identified by the Pasco County school district. The coalition also estimated the chronic homeless population in Pasco at 617. Those are people who have been on the streets for at least a year or have been homeless four times in a 36-month period.
Those also are the individuals who prove the most costly via hospitalization and public safety expenses to the public. Multiple studies show the annual cost of feeding, incarcerating and providing health care to a chronically homeless person is tens of thousands of dollars higher than even the most comprehensive program to aid the homeless.
Twenty-seven hundred dollars for a year's worth of hot showers pales in comparison.