Not everyone is pulling back in this lagging economy. This month, Metropolitan Ministries announced it would more than double its housing, child care and other services it offers to homeless families in Tampa. The charity's expansion will fill an incredible void. And it should inspire Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa to follow through on a comprehensive approach for dealing with the homeless.
The nonprofit will break ground early next year on the $23 million project, "MiraclePlace." The expansion includes 50 new shelter rooms, upgraded kitchen and dining facilities, and school and day care programs. The improvements will allow the charity to house 300 residents every day, more than twice the current number. And it will give needy families more, better and safer access to a range of services, from elementary school and day care to adult education.
Metropolitan Ministries does more than provide the homeless with a meal and a bed. Its focus is on keeping families together, and on working with parents to build a better life and get on the road to self-sufficiency. The expanded housing will give more children a secure living environment and a much-needed sense of stability, while parents take advantage of new educational opportunities and life-skills programs.
This is a wonderful way for the charity to celebrate 40 years of making a difference. Last year, Metropolitan Ministries saw more than 2,700 families seeking help for emergency housing, a 47 percent increase compared with the year before. On any given night, the nonprofit says, nearly 18,000 adults and children are homeless across the bay area. One-fourth are children; one-third are disabled. And the gap between the needy and the social services to help them is growing.
The nonprofit says the first phase of its expansion will cost $12 million and that $5 million already has been committed. This should be a reminder to the city and county that even in this struggling economy, ambition has its place. The county killed a tent city for the homeless in 2009 and has done virtually nothing since; city of Tampa officials, too, promised this year to address the larger problem of homelessness in the aftermath of adopting a ban on street-level panhandling. Charities and the government cannot solve every problem. But Metropolitan Ministries has set an example for moving ahead on a pressing public concern.