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 a volunteer board and committee members.
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 HUD's Priority Communities Initiative in 2011 that focused on the 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.
In November 2014, the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County was restructured to become the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.
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.
The CoC has enthusiastically adopted a series of evidence-based practices collectively known as Housing First. Business, government, healthcare, human services, and philanthropic leaders have coalesced around making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in Hillsborough County. To truly address homelessness, the community must simultaneously address the top causes of homelessness. The 560 In 560 Strategic Plan addresses the issue of unsheltered homelessness and some of the top causes leading to homelessness (lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, low wages, mental illness, and substance abuse).
The goal of 560 In 560 is to provide housing opportunities to 560 people in 560 days, beginning June 2019 through December 2020. 560 In 560 assembles an array of resources that rapidly house individuals and families from emergency shelters and move them towards self-sufficiency with minimal assistance. This process simultaneously makes emergency shelter and permanent housing available for those sleeping on the streets or places not meant for human habitation and that require more intensive assistance prior to becoming self-sufficient. The CoC has strengthened its partnerships and programs with key players and developed new partnerships and programs to reach the goal of 560 In 560.