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Protesters demonstrate against tent city proposal

TAMPA About 30 people protested a tent city proposal for the homeless today in East Tampa.They said it would be inappropriate to let homeless live at the 12-acre site near Hillsborough Avenue and Harney Road.
/ Source: wfla.com

About 30 people protested a tent city proposal for the homeless today in East Tampa.

They said it would be inappropriate to let homeless live at the 12-acre site near Hillsborough Avenue and Harney Road.

"It's not just about the fact that they're putting homeless in our community, it's about the fact that every homeless service in the country talks about housing first," East Lake Park resident Hal Hart said.

Hart, who has helped mobilize area neighborhoods in opposition including East Lake Park, Highland Pines and Grant Park, was pleased with feedback he got from people about the protest. Lots of drivers honked car horns as protesters stood outside holding signs.

Fellow protester Paul Cotter said his biggest concern is that many homeless people with mental health issues might move in the neighborhood. Today, Cotter held a sign saying: "WE ARE NOT EXPENDABLE!!"

On Aug. 11, Hillsborough County commissioners voted 5-2 to send the tent city proposal for the homeless back to the land-use hearing officer who previously recommended against it. The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday and will only consider a set of proposed conditions on how the tent city would operate, if approved. Some of those conditions were not part of public discussion at the initial land-use hearing.

They include registration of people staying overnight, a ban on sexual offenders, no outdoor cooking fires, 24-hour on-site security, additional buffering and lodging units that meet minimum housing standards. Also, access from Hillsborough would be eliminated and a second access from Harney added.

Commissioners also offered up the possibility of county land instead of the 12-acre site owned by Catholic Charities at Hillsborough and Harney.

The charity wants to build Hillsborough Cares, a tent city for up to 250 homeless adults who would live there for up to 90 days in tents or wooden shelters.

Although Catholic Charities is willing to look at other options, the agency remains committed to the proposed site, group President Frank Murphy said earlier this month.