For Tampa’s homeless, small cottages could give hope for a better future

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Catholic News Agency


For Tampa’s homeless, small cottages could give hope for a better future

A new housing complex of small cottages and tents aims to help several hundred homeless people in Tampa, in a project launched by Catholic Charities with help from the City of Tampa.

“Homeless folks are not anybody to be afraid of, they’re just people who fell on bad times,” Danielle Husband, senior director of programs at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, told CNA Dec. 15. “They’re people. They come with all sorts of challenges but they come with all sorts of strengths. They all have their own story.”

“Some of the folks are brand-new homeless. Their jobs were cut, like in the service industry, and all of that stopped for such a long period of time,” she said.

Others come from out of state.

“A lot of people come to Florida thinking it will be better, and sometimes it’s not better,” Husband said, according to a Catholic News Agency report.

On Dec. 13, Catholic Charities launched Tampa Hope community to help shelter the homeless in either tents or permanent structures called Hope Cottages. The project is located in an industrial, commercial area. It has a large lot with a building and some 50 platforms for tents and houses.

The project’s cottages aren’t truly “tiny homes” for permanent residence. Rather, they are transitional housing.

“The purpose of all of our shelters is to help the individual or the family end their episode of homelessness,” Husband said. “We are not the last place they are going to stay.”

Each Hope Cottage is an individual unit 64 square feet in area. Each cottage can house one or two people, with two folding beds, storage shelves, electric air conditioning and heating, power outlets, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and a fire extinguisher. The windows and doors are lockable.

The cottages are produced by the Washington state-based company Pallet, which helped adjust their designs for the needs of Florida’s climate. They are designed to avoid damage from rain or rot and are mold- and mildew-resistant. They have a category five wind rating, resistant to wind speeds up to 157 mph.

The cottages improve on a previous version. A local Knights of Columbus group had refurbished shipping containers to provide shelters of about 30 square feet, fit for for one person to live in.

This version showed some success, especially for those who work a night shift. They could sleep during the day in a place with less noise and heat, Husband said.

They had a downside, however: they were expensive to maintain and required decking and air conditioning.

Residents will move into the Tampa Hope cottages beginning in February. Until then, beneficiaries will be housed in tents built on wood platforms. Temporary laundry facilities, restrooms and showers are available at the site until permanent facilities, including a kitchen, are built.

At least 25 people moved in to the community on Monday, and another 25 moved in on Tuesday.

“Not everybody is comfortable with a tent model. It’s unusual to some folks,” Husband said.

Others are not comfortable in cottages because of the small space and because they’ve gotten used to living outside. Tents themselves help residents make the change.