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Pasco Moves Forward With Homeless Navigation Center Funding

Daylina Miller/WUSF News
Erik John Cantie, who helps with local homeless counts, speaks in favor of the Youth Lane location for the Homeless Navigation Center.

The Pasco County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to move forward with a plan to create a navigation center for the homeless.

But the location of the resource center, which helps homeless people find jobs, housing and other necessities, has been contentious in the community. Critics of the plan say the proposed location at the old Boys & Girls Club building on Little Road and Youth Lane in New Port Richey is too close to their homes and businesses.

Some have even protested at Chasco Elementary School, which is one mile from the proposed location for the navigation center.

Proponents say it’s better than a proposed alternative, the old New Port Richey jail.

Dozens showed up to speak both in favor and against the location. Everyone who spoke stressed the need for the center, even if they disagreed with the location. 

George Romagnoli, the community development director for Pasco County, said Tuesday’s vote was about approving the funding, not the location.

The county will allot money from a Community Development Block Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, known as HUD.

“Pasco County receives HUD money every year because we're a county of half a million people,” Romagnoli said. “And we determine how we want to spend that money. We send that application up to HUD. HUD makes sure that it's all in compliance, so what it was [Tuesday] was our plan to spend the money that HUD gives us to help low to moderate income people in Pasco County.”

This includes $250,000 for building repairs and $70,000 for a program specialist. The funding plan did not specify a location or particular buildings. 

The commission previously voted 4-1 for the Youth Lane location, with Jack Mariano being the lone commissioner against it. At Tuesday’s meeting, it was suggested that the commissioners could reconsider that decision during a future meeting. 

The Navigation Center is a partnership among several community agencies, including the Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County, the United Way of Pasco, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and the Pasco County Housing Authority.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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