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Hillsborough offering free rides to cold-weather shelters


Published:   |   Updated: January 22, 2014 at 09:25 PM

TAMPA — Hillsborough County has opened its cold weather shelters several times in the last few weeks to give people in need a warm place to sleep.

Now the county is offering transportation to get people to the shelters.

Under a pilot program started Wednesday, the county has made its Sunshine Line vehicles available to drive people to the cold weather shelters, said Crystal Pruitt, a Hillsborough County spokeswoman.

The free program is intended for the homeless and people who live in homes without adequate heat. It isn’t clear if the program will be used throughout the winter.

“We will assess if there’s a need for it,” Pruitt said.

People interested in using the service can call (813) 276-8136 between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. A Sunshine Line vehicle will be dispatched to transport the caller to the nearest shelter, Pruitt said.

By 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, dispatch hadn’t received a direct call for service, Pruitt said. However, 100 people were being transported from the Salvation Army shelter to an overflow shelter at Hyde Park united Methodist Church in Tampa, Pruitt said.

The county has heard from agencies and case managers who work with the homeless and the poor that there’s a need for transportation to get people to the cold weather shelters on cold nights, Pruitt said.

While the cold weather shelters have been open, the Salvation Army near downtown Tampa has drawn the largest crowds, up to 200 or 300 on some nights. The four other cold weather shelters -- located in Brandon, Wimauma, Town ‘N Country and Tampa -- attract a much smaller number of people.

jpatino@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7659

Twitter: @jpatinoTBO

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