Metropolitan Ministries holds groundbreaking for "MiraclePlace" facility

The organization's bold expansion will mean more resources for the homeless.

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Bruce Tigert, Chair of the board for Metropolitan Ministries, said at the event that the organization's board decided unanimously in January of 2011 to dramatically expand the size of their campus. "That decision took a lot of courage," he said, mentioning the obvious fact that beginning a capitol campaign in such dire economic times would be a major challenge.

Dr. Martin Silbiger is the chairman of that capitol campaign for MiracePlace. The current chair of the Straz Center as well, Silbiger said he agreed to take on the challenge of raising money in the still-struggling economy because, "this is the single most important project in this city at this time." He said the goal of the Ministry is to give families stability and education to make them independent and self-supporting.

Silbiger added that the organization has raised over $7 million already, with additional guarantees of another $6 million. The overall goal is $23 million, which he said he had no doubt would be reached. That money will go toward property acquisition, retrofitting, new construction and furnishing over 15,000 square feet on 10 acres of land between Florida Avenue and Tampa Street.

Once construction is completed, the number of transitional and emergency housing units will expand from 44 to 94, residences for those staying overnight will increase from 141 to 301 and the total number of annual residents will move from 340 to 704.

The first phase of expansion will also include a new daycare center, a counseling center, a welcome center and expanded dining facilities.

At the groundbreaking, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and County Commissioner Sandy Murman made public remarks. Tampa City Council members Mike Suarez and Yolie Capin, and state Representative Betty Reed were also at the event.

But the key public speaker was Chandra Rowley, who is staying at Metropolitan Ministries with her three children right now. She began her comments by asking if anyone in the well-heeled audience at any point in their lives were "completely lost and didn't know what to do."

For Rowley, it was on the 4th of July of 2011. That's when she said she realized she and her three children had no place to sleep that night. She went to the Ministries, but was told there was a three month wait. She said she ultimately had to send two of her kids to different friends or family members as she tried to find a way for the whole group to survive until they could make it.

Last Oct. 11 she was finally allowed to come to the facility. She said she initially did not want to be there, but when her kids saw she would have their own beds, they grew excited, which pleased her.

According to a press release, approximately 115 jobs are expected to be created during the construction of MiraclePlace. At the conclusion of the first phase, another 40-50 permanent jobs will be created.

  • Among those at today's groundbreaking were Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn & County Commissioner Sandy Murman

Over the past few years local governments in the Tampa/Hillsborough County area haven't done much regarding the explosion of homeless people in the community, though that's now changing with the County's recent approval to allocate over $2 million to fund the acquisition and rehabilitation of a 24-unit affordable housing development located off of Fowler Avenue in the University area of North Tampa.

There are a variety of social service agencies providing services to the homeless in Tampa Bay, but none has been bigger in the area than Metropolitan Ministries, now a 40-year-old institution in Tampa Heights that has provided millions of hot meals for the homeless and hundreds of thousands of shelter nights over the past four decades.

Now the agency is going big — a planned expansion of its campus to be called "MiraclePlace," that officials say will more than double the number of families and children served, to more than 200 families and over 450 children annually.

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