Hillsborough County Commissioners strike out on proposed homeless shelter

Well, it was a good idea.

Or maybe not.

Yesterday a spokesman for the owners of the Floriland Mall in Tampa, which last week Hillsborough County Commissioners voted to investigate the possibility of using as a homeless shelter, struck the idea down cold.

As reported in today's St. Petersburg Times, George Heaton, the manager of the office park's owner, Centermall LLC, told Commissioners they need not go any further in contemplating using the strip mall to house some of the thousands of homeless who currently are surviving in the County.

Last Tuesday, a day before the BOCC was to convene, Commissioner Kevin White announced in a press release that he would propose using the facility, since the clerk of the circuit court has already departed from the premises, and the County was on the hook for over half a million dollars to break that lease.

The Board was excoriated in newspaper editorials, and fellow citizens earlier this month after they rejected a proposal by Catholic Charities to create a tent city for the homeless off of East Hillsborough Avenue.

Some speculate that the criticism hit hard for some of those Commissioners, but that's also led to cynicism about their sincerity.

As Commissioner Al Higgenbotham said at last week's BOCC meeting, "This will show that we care."

White and Higgenbotham's entreaty did not exactly get a welcoming hand from their colleagues last week.  Commissioner Jim Norman, who did support the Catholic Charities proposal, seemed to stun White when he asked him if he had done any outreach to the local neighborhood near the Floriland Mall.

He hadn't.

Neighbors were getting organized, prepared to re-enact the NIMBY like attitude put on by East Lake residents which led the Commission to ultimately vote against that Catholic Charities tent city proposal.

So now what?  County staff has said previously there aren't a whole lot of possibilities with the land they currently own.  For their own credibility, however, the Board may need to start looking harder.

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