PASCO COUNTY, FLORIDA — Public anger over skyrocketing homelessness led to proposals for a “container city” – though local residents don’t want these experimental “cities” in their neighborhoods.
The Pasco County Commission and the city councils of Port Richey convened in March to discuss increased homelessness and the resulting crime, trash, and drug use prevalent in the county, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Their solution: “pallet villages” made from shipping containers, fit to host 100 to 150 homeless people per compound.
Pasco County trails neighboring Pinellas and Tampa in the creation of these homeless villages, nicknamed “Hope Projects.” Cropping up from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to Newark – the increasing popularity of these container cities demonstrates a nationwide push toward a new solution for homelessness.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Pasco’s current homeless population is between 300 and 400 people, dispersed throughout vacant lots or a slew of camps, most of which exist in the woods.
A January incident further rattled the county’s nerves, in which a horde of machete-wielding homeless people confronted a group of surveyors at a construction site, leading to public clamor for increased local code enforcement.
WE WANT CHANGE, BUT NOT NEAR US
While residents demanded amelioration, few want the presented container solution in their neighborhoods. At a commission meeting last week, some reported being fearful that a location for the container cities has been officially chosen.
Though the county denies that is the case, Pasco is launching efforts to study potential sites. They hired the Coastal Design Group to conduct a feasibility study in the “Mile Stretch Drive Site” in Holiday, Florida, the apparent frontrunner for Pasco’s first container city, paying the group $6,750 for their efforts.
“The area being studied covers the northern portions of four parcels along Mile Stretch,” Pasco spokesperson Sarah Andeara told the Tampa Bay Times.
“CAN’T CODE ITS WAY OUT”
A portion of the prospective site is directly west of the St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, which has helped house and assist Pasco’s homeless population over the years. The congregation, however, is not thrilled about the proposed container compounds either.
The church’s chief executive officer, Michael Raposa, pointed to pandemic relief funds that housed homeless people in motels until low-income housing was available. He wondered why Pasco officials aren’t instead strengthening those resources to create more low-income housing and additional services.
“The sheriff cannot arrest his way out of this. Your code enforcement can’t code its way out,” Raposa said. “Intervention works. It does.”