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    Homeless shelters prepare for increase in need because of new Florida law

    By Casey Albritton,

    30 days ago

    Non-profits are preparing for a possible growing need to help those without homes.

    In just four months, a new law would make it illegal for people to sleep in public spaces or parks.

    Aaron Swift with the Homeless Leadership Alliance of Pinellas said homelessness is a big problem in the Tampa Bay area.

    "Thirty something years ago, I was homeless here in Pinellas County from the ages of two to six with my mother," said Swift.

    He said it can happen to anyone.

    "It's running out of options. It's dealing with mental health issues. It's substance abuse issues. It's domestic violence issues. There's so many host of factors that lead to the unhoused and homelessness issues," said Swift.

    But with a new Florida law going into effect in October, Swift said it could make things worse.

    The new law prohibits people from sleeping overnight in public places like parks.

    State leaders who support the bill say it will help push people who need help into shelters and programs, but Swift said that could cause more issues.

    "The challenge is a space problem. The shelters, all of our writers are full. There's a waitlist for almost every single one of them," said Swift.

    He said that right now, Pinellas County has a limited number of beds available for people who don't have a home, and the law could be detrimental to those who are already in temporary housing programs.

    "Finding housing for people is a challenge, so while they're looking for housing, we need shelter. We need places for people to be at so we can help them solve their housing situation," said Joe Pondolfino with Pinellas Hope.

    Housing organizations are now meeting once a month, coming up with ways to prepare.

    "We are having task force meetings regularly with stakeholders from across the spectrum law-enforcement to county commissioners," said Swift.

    "We're just anticipating our need. You know the need for us will be even greater moving forward," said Pondolfino.

    Swift said the meetings are aimed at finding more bed space and gathering funding for programs.

    Pondolfino said his organization has already made some changes, adding 25 tents for those in need.

    Last month, we introduced you to Jimmy Klass, a Floridian who learned he was not a U.S. citizen after living here for 64 years . ABC Action News reporter Katie LaGrone is following through with updates to his story while also sharing the story of another Floridian who learned she was not a U.S. citizen after 60 years in the U.S.

    After nearly 60 years, another Floridian learns she’s not a legal citizen

    Latest Pinellas County News from ABC Action News

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