The deal locks in an agreement between the county and the Tampa Heights-based group Mental Health Care, with the funds coming through federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds and from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The plan was unveiled by Commissioner Sandy Murman, who has been leading a group of public and private individuals over the past year who have come together to do something tangible about the homeless in Hillsborough County.
Murman discussed the concept: a "housing first" approach used in many other U.S. cities. She said the "incremental strategy" is all about creating a small-scale facility like Villa Seville that is located near public transportation, shopping areas and behavioral health facilities.
Saying what the County has done in the past has been "creating a treadmill with very little success," Murman said the intent of the public-private group is not just to manage the homelessness problem in the county but to solve it.
Among the business officials involved with the Murman group is M.E. Wilson Company president Guy King, who agreed with Murman that "We believe we can solve this problem."
Appearing with King before the Board was Tampa Bay Lightning Chief Executive Officer Tod Leiweke, who briefly discussed his earlier work on homelessness while living in Seattle. He said beginning small was intentional, saying they didn't want to let ambition "wreck the first step."
Leiweke said the plan would be to have success with Villa Seville, and then go to the private sector for funding to help rehab other buildings, while having the county concentrate on services.
Commissioner Kevin Beckner asked Leiweke what was the motivating factor in Seattle that got the private sector involved.
Guy King responded that the business community has compassion for the chronically homeless, but perhaps more importantly, businessmen and women are passionate about the community. "I'd like to go to Platt Street and not trip over people," he bluntly asserted. "It's quality of life for everyone going to work."
The modest first step comes nearly half a year after Tampa passed a partial ban on panhandling. Since that time, various members of City Council have expressed frustration with the Buckhorn administration for not going forward in trying to acquire a property for the homeless, à la Safe Harbor in Pinellas County.
But Buckhorn has steadfastly said that, while homeless services are the city's responsibility, the issue was being worked on.
That was accurate, but those discussions were outside of public view — until today.