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Homeless cafe's move concerns VM Ybor residents | News

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Homeless cafe's move concerns VM Ybor residents

Ybor City, Florida -- Gloves and aprons are on at Trinity Cafe. Dozens of volunteers stand in a circle, preparing and praying for what they're about to do over the next hour.

For years, the cafe has served lunch for the homeless and working poor. Every weekday, people will hang around the building on N. Florida Ave. for hours in order to be guaranteed a seat. And when they're let in, the cafe overflows with people.

"The worst thing I ever have to do is turn someone away that is hungry," program director Cindy Davis says. "They're the same as you and I, and they need help."

And unfortunately, she has been forced to turn people away over the last couple of years. That's why Trinity purchased a vacant building on N. Nebraska Ave, about a mile away from the current property it shares with The Salvation Army. They'd like to expand their capacity by 20 percent and open the cafe up for lunch on weekends as well.

"It'll be our forever home," Davis says.

The problem? Many longtime residents in the VM Ybor Neighborhood want the area to be their forever home as well, and they say they only found out about Trinity's move once the property had already been purchased.

"To be told that we're going to have 200 or more homeless come to our area that don't necessarily reside here caused me great concern," says Kelly Bailey, vice president of the VM Ybor Neighborhood Association.

According to records from the Tampa Police Department, officers have responded to 20 incidents in the last year where reports were later written. Among them are charges of trespassing and public alcohol consumption, but they also include one case of battery with serious injury and one incident where someone failed to register as a sexual offender.

The VM Ybor Neighborhood Association represents about 800 homes, according to Bailey, and a primary concern is that the area is already home to problems. Some residents have worked with code enforcement officers to board up several vacant homes where people have broken in and taken residence.

"There are no other services for the homeless up here. So we have to question why you're going to locate the feeding portion of their services one to two miles away from where they're receiving other services," Bailey says.

But Trinity says the association's arguments are speculative for now.

"We don't know until we get there that we'll have issues. If we do, we certainly want to work with the neighborhood association to solve whatever issues may arise," says Davis.

The cafe doesn't know when it will be able to move. First, it needs to raise another $300,000 since most of its current kitchen equipment belongs to The Salvation Army. The neighborhood association hopes that the cafe will consider having additional security or lighting in order to make the area safer.


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