Initially an informal network for the sharing of ideas and resources, the Tampa/Hillsborough County Continuum of Care has steadily developed over the last two decades in response to government regulations and funding changes, better coordination models and changing best practices in the homeless services system.
In the mid-80s, then Florida Governor Bob Graham convened a state task force on homelessness. Their recommendations included the creation of coalitions in each of Florida’s largest counties to work collaboratively on homeless issues. In 1986, the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County was established. Leaders and staff at various service organizations assumed leadership and committee positions to manage the responsibilities the state had set forth for these newly formed coalitions.
In the early 1990s, the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) then rolled-out a consolidated application for their Homeless Assistance Grant (now known as their Continuum of Care program). This required the community to submit a single application and for a ‘lead agency’ to be responsible for the application’s completion and submission. The community selected the Homeless Coalition to be the lead agency.
The organization was incorporated in 2000 as a Florida nonprofit corporation and received its 501 (c) 3 designation from the IRS. The responsibilities now required of a ‘lead agency’ by both the state of Florida and HUD had grown to exceed the capacity of volunteer board and committee members. In December 2001, the organization’s first executive director was hired.
Charged with coordinating the Tampa/Hillsborough County CoC, the Homeless Coalition through partnerships with CoC members:
- increased HUD’s CoC funding in Tampa-Hillsborough County from $3.7 million in 2005 to more than $6.2 million in 2014;
- added more than 900 permanent supportive housing units for homeless persons between 2005 and 2014;
- obtained $3.9 million of funding from the state of Florida to finance 142 new transitional and permanent housing units; and
- implemented the UNITY Information Network as CoC’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) as federally required
HUD selected the Tampa/Hillsborough County Continuum of Care to be part of two efforts led by national experts to help lead agencies and CoCs to enhance their capabilities and strategies to more effectively address homelessness in their communities. The first was HUDs Priority Communities Initiative in 2011 that focused on governance and planning of the CoC, and produced the Framework to Inform the Hillsborough Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The second, in 2012, was the Dedicating Opportunities to End Homelessness (DOEH) initiative to realigned local efforts with federal strategic efforts with a DOEH recommendations report.
These combined efforts resulted in the restructuring of the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County to become the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative in November of 2014.
Today, the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative confronts the challenges endemic in tackling homelessness by creating and maintaining strategic synergistic relationships with federal, state, local and private entities, through the utilization of metric-informed strategy, and through the implementation of best practices across the Continuum of Care.