Shiela Lopez and Pinellas Hope


Dennis DeMarino and Sheila Lopez

Dennis DeMarino and Sheila Lopez

Sheila Lopez, COO of Catholic Charities, spoke of the need in Pinellas County for shelter for those who have experienced hard times.  Catholic Charities has a program to provide such shelter known as Pinellas Hope . This program of Catholic Charities, Shelters of Hope,  covers three counties and provides 1700 units of housing; fourteen years ago it provided only ten units!    Pinellas Hope provides 255 tents, 10 casitas and 80 apartments, the latter of which cost a family 30% of their income.  Shelter is not all  that is provided.  Since the program began 850,000 meals have been served…with no stove.  These meals are brought by volunteers, who either prepare food or purchase it.   

Who can receive these services?  Those  in need who are drug and alcohol free per test screen.  What do they get?  Use of a tent, sleeping bag, mat and ditty bag.  There are seven case managers for 300 clients.  Length of stay may be one day, or 5 years.  The success rate, reflected as employment obtained and income, is 57%.  There is more to “success” than those measures; some volunteer to assist in this program after they have left it.  While receiving services a person must volunteer 10 hours a week, or 5 hours if employed.   

Some clients have medical problems.  There are 10 beds available for those.  Some have mental health problems.  Pinellas Emergency Mental Health Services, or PEMHS, provides one mental health counselor and one substance abuse counselor to assist in this regard.   

How does this organization function?  It has 12 paid staff that are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  The camp is run by the clients.  And, there are 100 volunteers from MacDill Air Force Base and another three thousand volunteers!  There are three warehouses that accept household donations.  And, of course, the charity welcomes cash donations.

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