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Economy / Business
More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

Elderly and families are among Hillsborough's growing homeless population, new data shows

Homeless Count1 (Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative).jpg
Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative
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Each year, volunteers from the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative fan out across the county to get a point in time count of the number of people living without a home.

The number of seniors who have experienced homelessness jumped nearly 40 percent since 2018 and the number of families facing homelessness increased by 21 percent since 2020, the survey found.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Hillsborough County has jumped 4 percent since 2020, according to data released Tuesday by the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.

The increase is being driven largely by aging residents and families who are being hit hard by the rising cost of housing and other necessities, officials said.

The number of residents 62 or older in Hillsborough County who have experienced homelessness jumped nearly 40 percent since 2018 and the number of families facing homelessness increased by 21 percent since 2020, the survey shows.

“I believe it's the economy, fixed income, the housing crisis,” said Antoinette Hayes-Triplett, CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.

Seniors, in particular, are having a hard time keeping up with rising prices because, for many, their only source of income is Social Security, she said.

"In some cases, it may be $800 to $1,000 a month for their Social Security," Hayes-Triplett said. "And there's really no place in Hillsborough County, to rent a place that is not subsidized for $800 to $1,000."

The survey of unsheltered people is federally mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Hillsborough County, the Point-in-Time survey, or PIT count, is conducted and published with the help of community volunteers through the Tampa Hillsborough Housing Initiative.

In February, over 120 volunteers canvassed the county using a sampling method to calculate the number of people living on the street or in a homeless shelter during a single night.

Volunteers gather at tables in a room with everyone looking forward.
Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative
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Volunteers for the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative gather before the 2020 point in time homeless count.

They found that roughly 1,500 people are living in Hillsborough County without housing.

It is the first snapshot of homelessness the county has received since 2020, because of a pause last year due to the pandemic, Hayes-Triplett said.

And because the data is five months old, Hayes-Triplett fears the affordable housing crisis that has gotten worse since the start of the year has made matters worse.

“So I don't think that we're getting a complete picture of what's going on, but it is a snapshot of what is occurring in our community,” she said.

In particular, Hayes-Triplett says she's worried about people with fixed incomes, families with federal relief set to expire and essential workers facing rising rent costs.

She also chairs the Tampa/Hillsborough County Continuum of Care, a program that works to find local housing solutions. She said the data allows community partners and local officials to make more informed decisions about how to assist people without housing.

"It's not just an issue for those that are low income. It's an issue for those that are middle income as well," she said. "We're having calls from people that have never asked for services before."

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

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