Citrus County wants to do something about its homeless

Citrus County government wants to do something about the homeless within its borders.

At the urging of County Commission Chairman Gary Bartell, the county plans to find out what services are available for the homeless and how the county can help.

"I just want us to get ahead of this issue before it comes before the board," Bartell said. "We don't want to wait and become reactive."

Bartell commissioned County Administrator Brad Thorpe to see what could be done, and both he and Laura Lee, who is the county's Shared Services Alliance Facilitator, have come up with a "Continuum of Care" concept for the county. It's not a final plan, but rather a direction of exploration, one which also seeks to dovetail with homeless-related efforts in the county.

Thorpe said he believe the "Continuum of Care" will help the county-community effort to help the homeless. "There are a lot of not-for-profits - a lot of people who are providing services that don't necessarily get the public recognition, or identified in the press, about what's going on out there."

Commissioner Dennis Damato said his vision for housing the homeless does not include a tent city. "We have never been down this road of addressing this issue. Basically, what we're going to do is establish a community standard for what this community expects for the homeless," Damato said. "And I don't believe the community standard for the homeless in Citrus County is going to be a tent city - I'm sorry."

Damato said the county will have to "think out of the box" to help the homeless and be creative in finding solutions. One thing that may be considered, Damato suggested, is to see if FEMA has any portable housing left over that could be used to give the homeless better, semi-permanent living quarters.

Commissioner John Thrumston said that the county will sooner or later have to become involved in helping the homeless. "It's coming," he said. "As we grow, those things come. Coming from the St. Petersburg area and watching and seeing what they've done and how they've addressed it - we don't want to be on the news for (having used) box cutters (on homeless tents)."