PORT RICHEY, Fla. — After years of planning and delays, Pasco County's only family shelter is expected to open on the site of the former Boys & Girls Club sometime in late July or early August.

"With our population expanding and the number of folks that are ALICE - asset limited, income constrained (employed) - particularly during this COVID period, we expect to really run the shelter pretty much capacity," said Don Anderson, CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County.

The coalition is leasing the two buildings on the Youth Ln. property from Pasco County. The project has seen a number of hurdles through the years. In 2017, neighbors protested the location of the shelter at the site. Then in 2018, the coalition changed its original plans from turning one of the buildings into a shelter for homeless individuals to converting it into a place where families could come to get back on their feet. The next year found the coalition waiting on funding for the more than $1 million in renovations needed to both buildings. Then, the pandemic hit and delayed the opening. 

Finally, an opening day is in sight. The coalition has contracted with Catholic Charities to run the shelter.

"We are super excited to be a part of this project," said Danielle Husband, senior director of programs with Catholic Charities. "The needs of Pasco are significant and continue to grow with the homeless population, and especially the needs of young families in this community."

Husband said data shows the average homeless child in Pasco is eight years old, and the average homeless adult is 36 years old.

The shelter will include nine sleeping pods that can be broken up into three rooms.

"That will give us the ability to, depending on the size of the family, connect rooms together so that if we have a single mother and a baby, they can be in a small room like this, but the minute we have a family of 12, we could just connect the three rooms together," said Anderson.

There's also a common area, kitchen, and shower rooms. Anderson said the shelter can house up to 38 people at a time.

Case management services will be available right in the shelter, and the coalition and other agencies will have office space in the second building. Residents will be able to walk next door for resources like career services.

"We're going to be talking about discharge as soon as they arrive because it really is the purpose to find safe, permanent houseing for them," said Husband.

The coalition is working on furnishing the building ahead of the opening. Help is also needed from the public. Catholic Charities is asking for volunteers to help serve meals and offer their skills that may be useful to families in need.

"We are looking for folks that want to share some of their talents of, you know, if you're a good homemaker or you were a financial planner, now you're retired and you've got some hours on the side to spare. I talked to one lady, retired substance abuse counselor, and she said while we're getting started, she'd be willing to come in a couple hours a week and just lend that support," said Husband.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call Catholic Charities at (727) 893-1313.

Anderson said a challenge will be finding affordable housing for these families. The coalition is asking anyone who spots a house, mobile unit, or apartment with a "for rent" sign on it to take a picture of the contact information and e-mail it with the street number and address to rentinpasco@gmail.com.