RIVERVIEW, Fla. (WFLA) – An old Riverview library is at the center of a controversy, causing some nearby residents to be fired up.
ECHO, Emergency Care Help Organization, has been working to end and prevent homelessness in the Bay area since 1987 and Riverview, specifically for more than 20 years. ECHO connects neighbors with social workers and job coaches to meet their immediate needs.
“We are passionate about ending, preventing homelessness and hunger in our community,” said Executive Director Eleanor Saunders.
Saunders said ECHO helped 16,000 individuals with immediate needs last year alone, and the need is growing exponentially. The organization is now moving two-tenths of a mile down Riverview Drive.
“I think what they do is great,” said Lauren Gould, a concerned Riverview resident. “I think that they just need to choose their locations a little bit better because it does attract populations that can put you at risk, homeless populations, and people who use drugs.”
Gould lives behind the old library, which has been vacant for nearly three years. She doesn’t support ECHO’s move. She said she’s worried that ECHO will attract people into her neighborhood that could pose a danger and a security risk. However, Saunders said the majority of people ECHO serves are single mothers and only 2% of people they helped last year identified as chronically homeless.
“This is not a homeless shelter. ECHO is not an ongoing food pantry,” said Saunders. “It does not have a drive-through food distribution. That is not our core competency. Our core competencies are to bring a family in crisis into stability.”
Saunders said this new move down Riverview Drive is in a commercial-zoned space where you’ll also find a funeral home, a vet office, and a school. Mosaic Mining Company leased the space to ECHO. Gould is concerned that ECHO’s move will ultimately attract crime and put her neighborhood at risk.
“Our goal is to have them offer a more commercial location that is not directly across from school and directly located inside a neighborhood,” said Gould.
Saunders said it’s a misunderstanding of what ECHO does and who they serve.
“Who we serve is who you’re shopping at Walmart with. Who you’re sitting in the bleachers with at a little league game, who you’re going to church with,” said Saunders. “They are the hidden hurting.”
ECHO plans to be operational out of the old library in just a few weeks.