Today we chat with Hillsborough County sheriff's Deputy Steve Donaldson of the department's homeless initiative, launched in Town 'N Country in June 2010. The program combines the veteran deputy's street smarts and community contacts with the efforts of enterprising landlords, corporations and faith-based groups. It enables handpicked homeless people to live rent-free in time-worn houses - while making repairs to the structures - for up to one year. The program also aims to improve blighted neighborhoods.
Q: How do you make initial contact with homeless individuals who might benefit from program?
Answer: The majority of our homeless clients we work with are met out on the streets and in homeless camps where they live. This is street-level engagement where we seek them out on their turf, as opposed to them trying to find us at an office.
Q: Who is the ideal homeless candidate for this program?
Answer: We work with all homeless clients within our jurisdictional boundaries at varies levels of assistance. However, to qualify as a candidate for this housing opportunity, we select from our roster those who exhibit the highest levelof commitment and follow-through. It's also comes down to a feeling of personal trust.
Q: There's probably no shortage of homeless individuals. So for landlords who want to get involved, what's the first step?
Answer: To be a good fit for our needs we are looking for property owners that not only have a humanitarian desire but also have a vacant residential dwelling they might not know what to do with.
Q: Do you oversee improvements that former homeless make to their temporary residences?
Answer: We oversee all of our homeless clients' activities, which makes them accountable to somebody. We don't act as property managers but we do have a hand with the types of improvements and renovations with each home.
Q: Where do you see the future of your re-housing effort going?
Answer: The model started out as simply a re-housing experiment and is still in its infancy. Now that it's gaining steam we are seeking out qualified non-profits experienced in the acquisitions and residential development of future projects.