The South County Homeless Outreach event helped more than 65 homeless people in Southern Hillsborough County. Pictured: event committee organizers representing Northside Mental Hospital, SouthShore Chamber of Commerce, Bags of Brotherly Love, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Bell Shoals Church in Apollo Beach.

The SouthShore Chamber of Commerce Homeless Initiative committee along with the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office partnered with many other local businesses and organizations to host the South County Homeless Outreach event.

The event took place on July 16 at Bell Shoals Church in Apollo Beach and was attended by 65 homeless people to provide much-needed services and resources all in one location. As part of the collaboration, services offered ranged from showers, free haircuts, food stamps, clothing, flu shots, veteran services, substance abuse services, housing services, mental health services, employment services and health screenings.

“We are very excited to bring these resources to our homeless population—this is the first time this type of effort has occurred outside of the ‘city’ limits,” said Melanie Davis, executive director for the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce. “The event was a huge success.”

This heartfelt outreach was coordinated by the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce and included more than 100 volunteers as well as 35 organizations offering resources. Some of the many sponsors and businesses that participated in making the event a success included Northside Mental Health, Brandon Elks Club, Roots Southern BBQ, Fringe Benefits Hair Salon, Bags of Brotherly Love, Welch Tennis Courts, Street Angels Ministries, Ruskin United Methodist Church, The Fish House, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Shell Point Pizza and Bell Shoals Church.

“My favorite part was watching everyone interact,” said Davis. “That was awesome. People that were there truly wanted to help and I feel the homeless men and women felt that.”

The Homeless Outreach Committee for the SouthShore Chamber initiated this event. Often, homeless resources are available within city limits, but not in the unincorporated section of Hillsborough County. During the event, several people took the opportunity to transition to local shelters.

“Sometimes the resources these people need are too far to get to—or there are many hurdles that prevent them from obtaining them,” said Davis. “The mobile DMV was there and they were able to issue on-the-spot Florida IDs. This was huge for many people. Without an ID, you really can’t do much.”

According to Davis, the community would like to conduct this outreach twice per year or more.

“The SouthShore business community has been wanting to do something for this population for a while,” said Davis. “They are not invisible, and some do want help so that’s what we set out to do.”

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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.