Hillsborough County Commission Considers Homeless Shelter at Abandoned Mall

10/21/09 Kate Bradshaw
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This morning the Hillsborough County Commission voted unanimously to explore the possibility converting the site of the now-defunct Floriland Mall into a homeless shelter.

Commissioner Kevin White cited the county’s desperate need for such a facility as a major reason for placing the item on the morning’s agenda.

The site is located at Florida Avenue and Busch Boulevard. County offices once occupied part of the building, but much of that space is now vacant due to cutbacks. Proponents note that the site is close to public transit. White added that, unlike a proposed tent city the commission recently voted down, the 20,000-square-foot building could also house social services additional to those already located within the building.

While none of his colleagues contended White on the county’s need for such a facility, there was some concern over the haste of the proposal.

Among Commissioner Jim Norman’s concerns was whether entities like the school board, area neighborhoods and even the property owner had been given adequate notice about the proposed facility.

Commissioner Rose Ferlita reminded the commission that the property is within the City of Tampa, and that the shelter may thus require resources the city does not have.

Ferlita added that, compared to the rejected tent city's site at Hillsborough and Harney, the Floriland location would likely have a greater impact on the surrounding community.

The discussion began with a public comment session. Homeless network organizer Derek Shomblay said that homelessness is a human rights issue as well as one of urgency.

Naomi Hall who lives near the former shopping center, expressed concern over potential threats the facility may pose to her neighborhood.

After input from his colleagues, White changed the language of the proposal to reflect concerns over public input and the overall viability of the site. Commission staff will now be asked to look at all aspects of the proposed site. If the site is deemed unfeasible, the commission will likely seek another location for the facility.

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