While many residents may not know who they are, people living on the street can be seen almost anywhere you go.
Advocates say, though, that people sometimes forget that members of the homeless community have names, they have families, and at one point, probably had normal lives like everyone else.
Scott Labuda says that is something he never forgets, and he counts his blessings every single day.
What You Need To Know
- Scott Labuda is working to help members of the homeless communities in Tampa and St. Pete
- His group, BrigAIDE, help people living on the streets get access to basic necessities
- He says the movement to help people dealing with homelessness is expanding
“You know what, to me, I really feel like this is a mission, like in my life,” he said.
The Cleveland native has been putting his gratitude to work and has been helping the homeless for decades.
He started in New York City, then moved to Chicago, Houston, and now, Tampa, where he is working with Metropolitan Ministries CARES.
He serves as the human lifeline that reaches out to where members of the homeless community live, bringing words of hope to people who have lost everything. Labuda said he and members of Metropolitan Ministries BrigAIDE also bring people bags filled with essential items.
“People talk about socks all the time with people experiencing homelessness,” he said. “It’s huge. Socks and underwear. And then some just need water, some deodorant.”
BrigAIDE is how people in need get their first introduction to the laundry list of services and shelters Metropolitan Ministries provides in many parts of Tampa Bay. All of those services are now being expanded to include St. Petersburg and the rest of Pinellas County.
“We have a brick and mortar office now in St. Pete,” said Donald Walker, the associate director of community collaboration in St. Pete. “We provide case management, so I’m the associate director. I’m over this county and I run this office.”
St. Pete will have a BrigAIDE team specifically targeting areas of town just like Scott and his team. Their goal is to reach out to homeless people next to the Hart bus depot in Tampa. They help people like Daniel Folsom, who says he’s been on the streets since October.
“Some days are better that others,” he said. “I guess it’s what you make of it. I mind my own business. Stay to myself. Now I got my little group of friends here — we stick together and try to help each other out.”
Labuda said the work can sometimes be difficult, and understands why some volunteers become discouraged as they fight a battle against homelessness that can feel endless.
That’s why Labuda says he looks at the small picture instead of the big one.
“In one interaction, you’re not trying to end homelessness,” he said. “You’re trying to help that person take steps so they can be better tonight.”