TAMPA, Fla. — Increased 911 calls about people experiencing homelessness in Treasure Island promoted city leaders to form a new nonprofit foundation to find alternative solutions for people living on the streets.
According to Fire Chief Tripp Barrs and Police Chief John Barkley, both departments have been working to help the city’s homeless population since 2018.
“We try to get them help, and a warm place to sleep,” Barrs said. “They are still a part of this community. We call them our citizens without residences.”
Barrs and Barkley said most of them don’t cause trouble. Still, though, the calls from residents complaining have doubled since last year.
“Our officers spend a lot of time with the homeless in the area,” said Barkley.
Residents believe the homeless population has grown over the last year, and that’s what most of them are complaining about. Officials said that’s not the case. The number of “homeless in our community remain constant at 10 to 12 people,” according to Barrs.
He and Barkley said people are just seeing them more because they are now out on Gulf Boulevard.
“Gulf Blvd. is really the last public place where the can be, and it’s out in the open,” said Barkley.
City leaders approved a proposal to create a nonprofit homeless intervention foundation.
“The foundation will help the city address these unmet needs, by providing the structure and guidance for a citizen-led foundation to have positive impacts on our community,” Barrs said. “This is a long-term solution, or intervention that will help them get back on their feet.”
The city is asking locals to help run the foundation and help with funding. One person already donated $10,000 to the city to get it started.
“That’s really going to help us in this cause,” said Barrs.
The city is in the process of getting the proper approvals through the state to start the foundation, which will be a nonprofit organization.
Leaders are hoping to launch by the summer.