By Tamas Mondovics

Community members, local government officials and members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) staff were on hand last month to celebrate the grand opening of a brand new Homeless Outreach Center.
Located at 3671 W. Waters Ave. in the Fountain Oaks Plaza in Tampa, the new facility will be staffed with deputies and social service workers to provide a home base to connect homeless individuals with the right people in order to help them get back on their feet.

“On behalf of the more than 4,000 employees of the sheriff’s office, I want to thank each and every one of you for everything that you contribute,” said HCSO Major Chad Chronister during his opening comments to a sizable crowd that gathered in support of HCSO’s initiative, which began in 2010 after Sheriff David Gee’s vision to do more for the homeless in the community.

HCSO Colonel Greg Brown shared Gee’s vision and immediately volunteered to take upon himself the daunting task of making an impact in the community.

“This program started with just one deputy, Steve Donaldson, who took this overwhelming project and built it to what it is today, including the five deputies the Sheriff has now assigned to cover every district in the county,” Brown said, adding that while working in conjunction with several social agencies, the program has assisted more than 500 homeless individuals to be placed in temporary housing or shelters and have permanently housed more than 200 homeless individuals with their family members.

Brown mentioned that a great number of homeless individuals were able to be reunited with their families as the program covered their travel needs by means of the purchase of airline and bus tickets.

Currently HCSO has five deputies that are working out of each of the agency’s four district offices covering the entire county. Deputies daily assist the homeless with identification and birth certificates, applications and services for Social Security, food assistance, healthcare, mental health care and substance abuse.

“To see the support of the various private organizations and individuals who are interested in helping us and the county is just overwhelming,” Brown said, while he also praised local resident whom he called true volunteers as they went out of their ways on a personal individual basis to support the homeless.

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