People who are homeless and those who earn lower incomes came to receive food, clothes and other social services at University Mall in Tampa on Tuesday.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office organized the quarterly homeless outreach event. Officer Daniel McDonald is the homeless liaison for the Tampa Police Department. He said the department has brought together volunteers from local aid groups to serve the city's homeless since 2013.
“Every community has a homeless issue and Hillsborough County, and the city of Tampa, is doing an exceptionally good job at ending homelessness but there’s still a ways to go,” he said.
The Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative estimates that there were at least 1,549 homeless people in Hillsborough County in 2017. McDonald said that number has decreased in recent years.
He said the goal of the outreach event is to help people find housing first, and then provide access to other services such as health care, food and employment.
People at the outreach event could also take showers at a mobile shower station parked outside and file paperwork to get identification that would help them on their road to gaining housing.
Hillsborough County resident Terrica Jackson Young said she came to the event to find permanent housing.
“We’ve been trying to look for a house, and everything, but right now we’re basically just working,” She said. “Working, working, working, working.”
Jackson Young works at McDonald’s and part-time at Raymond James Stadium when there are games. She lives in a hotel with her family, including her 10-year-old son. They moved from Georgia to Florida a little over a year ago.
“As I go around (the service tables), hopefully, I can come upon something…someone. God show me favor with someone that’s here for me and my family,” she said. “‘Cause we need it. We’re ready because my little boy is ready to get his own room.”
At Gracepoint, case managers help people who have been chronically homeless, those with disabilities and people with mental illnesses. The organization reported helping thousands of people find housing and get mental health treatment in fiscal year 2017.
“Don’t be afraid of the stigma...it’s a different population to work with,” said one case manager, “but (the homeless) are people like we are. We want to help them as much as we would want someone to help our family members. That’s how we treat everyone who walks in our door.”