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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.

The greater Tampa Bay region is awarded millions by HUD to address homeless crisis

Steve Newborn
WUSF Public Media
A man living without housing holds a cardboard sign on a city street.

Local agencies in the greater Tampa Bay region are set to receive more than $19 million in annual grant funding to address chronic homelessness in their communities.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently distributed $2.8 billion in grant funding to housing programs and homeless services across the country.

This latest wave of annual funding is designed to help individuals and families facing chronic homelessness, or those living with a disability and without shelter for more than a year.

In the greater Tampa Bay region, local agencies are set to receive more than $19 million.

That includes around $8 million awarded to the Tampa-Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, $5.5 million to agencies in Pinellas County and $1.5 million to Sarasota and Manatee counties.

For the Tampa-Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, CEO Antoinette Hayes-Triplett said the grant money awarded isn’t enough to offset the rising housing pressures in the Tampa Bay region.

“In the past, we'd normally get additional funding based on fair market rent,” she said.

Typically, she explained, the federal government will increase the amount of money awarded to a local agency in a community that has experienced steep increases in rent.

In October, HUD estimated that fair market rent in Tampa would climb 23 percent in 2023.

“And this year, we did not get an increase,” she said. “Rents are not going down. They’re not even stabilizing. So it’s concerning that we did not get a bump in funding.”

Survey data from the latest homeless count in Hillsborough County is set to be released in May.

Hayes-Triplett said she is particularly concerned about the growing number of people who are living without housing over a long period of time.

“And the big concern I have when I talk to people in the community (is that) most people think they can get a job, they can pull themselves up by the bootstraps — but the ones we’re looking at are never going to be able to do that without our assistance,” she said.

A typical person facing chronic homelessness in Hillsborough county is a single, middle-aged man living with a mental or physical disability, Hayes-Triplett said.

She said there’s also a gap in available assistance, like permanent supportive housing, for this vulnerable group in the greater Tampa Bay region.

With current grant funding, including the $8 million recently provided by HUD, the Tampa-Hillsborough Homeless Initiative can only afford to sustain the agency’s existing programs.

“Most of the permanent supportive housing that we have currently through this grant is working with landlords,” she said.

With current funding, approximately 3,000 residents are being assisted daily, according to Hayes-Triplett.

She said the next step is to generate the funds to rollout a new project, like building a low-barrier housing community to be managed by the local agency itself.

The proposal, which is being called the B.E.A.C.H. Project, would require an additional $5 million to bring online, Hayes-Triplett estimated.

“The funding that we get from HUD generally does not allow us to create a project of this size without other funding sources,” she said.

With additional grant revenue and money raised in the community, Hayes-Triplett is hopeful that funding for the first B.E.A.C.H. Project can be secured this year.

The agency recently submitted applications for community action grants administered by Home Depot and Wells Fargo. Hayes-Triplett added that residents can also learn about ways to give to THHI by visiting their website.

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.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.
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