MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Manatee County commissioners have been discussing housing options for at-risk and homeless veterans in recent months.
In early August, we told you about a nearly nine-acre property off 66th St. W. in Bradenton that could be part of the solution. County commissioners are considering gifting the land, valued at about $6 million, to the New York-based Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
If the project moves forward, it could bring more than 100 units to the now county-owned property. During the August meeting, commissioners voted to push the discussion to six weeks down the line. However, that timeframe has since passed, and there still hasn’t been any action on the issue.
During a meeting Tuesday, another possible housing project for local veterans was discussed. The CEO of St. Vincent de Paul CARES presented to commissioners the possibilities for another county-owned site off Buckeye Rd.
CEO Michael Rasposa explained their housing first philosophy.
“We believe that a person is ready to be moved into housing the minute we meet them with a complete disregard for all barriers, including alcohol and drugs. That is a radical concept, but it is working at about an 87.5% success rate. Since we began this process and doing this intervention in 2012, we have served 21,715 clients in 13,215 households with an 80% success rate. The old way of doing homeless services where you take people and you fix them does not work,” said Rasposa.
Commissioners took no action following the presentation.
Commissioner Jason Bearden, who helped champion the Buckeye Rd. vision made a motion to defer all votes relating to housing for veterans until a later date, however, that motion failed.
During public comment and before that vote, multiple residents criticized commissioners for delaying action on the Tunnel to Towers project.
“Every day they are out there, their backs are up against the wall, so we need to get this done. We need to stop kicking this the road and get this done for the people that served for us,” said resident Timothy Mays.
“I don’t know why we are kicking the can down the road. There is room for both of those projects, way more than enough room. We need to move forward on Tunnels to Towers,” said resident Glen Gibellina.
Commissioner Bearden emphasized to 8 On Your Side the commission wants to move the needle forward when it comes to helping local veterans.
“That is the hope is that we can get these projects in the ground, get a shovel in the ground, as soon as possible while still ensuring that we are doing our due diligence, and ensuring that the veterans are taken care of,” said Commissioner Bearden.
Commissioner George Kruse, who helped bring Tunnel to Towers to Manatee County, told us he understands the residents who feel frustrated by the delays.
“Every day we wait, [there] are more veterans that remain homeless or become homeless. We can’t keep kicking this down the road for the sake of our community, for the sake of our veterans, or for the sake of Tunnel to Towers, who again have worked in good faith to move this,” said Commission Kruse.
Kruse said the project is expected to be up for a vote on Oct. 10.