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TREASURE ISLAND, FL — To assist the city’s growing number of residents left homeless due to job loss and evictions as a result of the pandemic, the city of Treasure Island is taking a proactive approach to deal with the problem, creating a Life Intervention Focus Team to assist residents with shelter, food and other necessities.

Even before the pandemic, Pinellas County had among the highest number of homeless residents in the state, according to the 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress with a population of 2,226 homeless people including 265 veterans and 350 families with children.

Inflation, combined with a high demand for housing and a lack of affordable housing, has escalated these numbers in the two years since, according to the Homeless Leadership Alliance of Pinellas.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness said Florida now has the 17th highest homeless rate in the country with an estimated 27,487 homeless residents.

To get a better handle on the number of residents who are currently homeless, the Homeless Leadership Alliance is planning to conduct a Point-in-Time, or PIT, count, an annual survey the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires for counties to receive federal grants to combat homelessness, in 2022.

However, law enforcement and other service providers working the streets of Pinellas County say the increase is significant, exceeding the 2,425 beds available in Pinellas County for homeless residents as of 2021.

After witnessing an increasing number of people sleeping on park benches and beneath highway overpasses, the Treasure Island City Commission decided to tackle the problem by creating LIFT, a team composed of police officers, firefighters, social workers and other first responders who regularly work on the streets where they encounter the homeless.

In the meantime, the city will be forming a nonprofit LIFT board of directors composed of five to 10 residents and business owners that will raise funds to hire a social worker to lead the team and provide services for the homeless.

LIFT’s goal is to:

  • Relieve the stress of the poor, the distressed or the underprivileged.
  • Advance the availability and access to social services.
  • Increase access to emergency or sustainable housing for residents and the homeless in need.
  • Lessen the burdens of the city.
  • Lessen neighborhood tensions.
  • Help educate to eliminate prejudice and discrimination.
  • Uphold legally guaranteed human and civil rights of the homeless
  • Combat community deterioration.

“The LIFT board members can have a lasting positive impact on our community by playing an active role in raising funds and awareness to enable the city to procure a licensed social worker to assist those in need,” Treasure Island City Manager Amy Davis said.

The Treasure Island City Commission is expected to begin the process of selecting board members in August. To qualify to serve on the board, directors need to be at least 18 years old and a city resident or city business owner.

Those interested are encouraged to apply by July 22 by clicking here, going to the “Engage and Connect” tab and clicking on the”Boards and Committees” link.

For residents looking for help, the homeless alliance has a resource guide available here.

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