sptarticle.htm Posted December 17, 2007 Return to DSMHomepage
A JOB, A CABIN, THEN A HOME
A community activist
proposes transitional steps for the homeless.
Denny Mihalinec is
out of breath.
longtime community activist gets excited when he talks about a plan he has
developed over the past two years to help Pasco County's homeless. For a month
now, Mihalinec has presented his proposal to anyone who would listen.
"He's a real
go-getter," said Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who met with
Mihalinec for almost an hour in September and was impressed by his plan.
Mihalinec wants to
build a transitional housing center, called Journey Village, on the east side of
In his plan, homeless
people would check into the village's intake center, where they would be set up
with a bed and connected to existing services that offer job placement, food
stamps and health care.
The goal is for
Journey Village residents to save their work money and move from the intake
center to small no-frills homes, no bigger than a child's playhouse, located in
The homes, which are
traditionally used for hunting cabins, consist of a bed, sink and toilet, and
cost $2,000 to $10,000, Mihalinec says. They would have electricity and
The homes could be
rented for as little as $25 a month but would include some stipulations: no
alcohol, no parties, and the tenant must have or be looking for a job.
The village, which
would also include a shower room, playground, community center and church, would
be run and patrolled by volunteers.
"In this village
we're going to extend our love from here to the moon, but there has to be
boundaries," Mihalinec said.
there are more than 1,300 homeless in Pasco County, and only 184 emergency
shelter beds, most on the west side.
"We could use
some balance in the county," said Eugene Williams, supervisor for the Pasco
Community Development Division.
A transitional family
housing center, like the one Mihalinec envisions, is planned for the New Port
Richey area. It will house about 60 people if funding is secured, Williams said.
Mihalinec's plan for
Journey Village includes accommodations for about 200 people at a time.
"It could have
some merit," said Tom Pierce, director of the state's Office on
Homelessness in Tallahassee, who has received e- mails from Mihalinec touting
his plan. "There's certainly obviously a need for more of the transitional
housing that Denny is talking about."
Journey Village could be a temporary center where homeless people could live
cheaply and save their money for an apartment or a home through an affordable
"This is getting
people off the ground and getting them into mainstream society," he said.
"It's a hand-up, not a handout."
Helping the homeless
is a personal quest. Mihalinec grew up in Trilby. His mom waited tables for 16
hours a day to support her three sons, he said. But sometimes she couldn't make
rent, and she and the boys had to sleep in the family's El Camino.
"I know what
it's like for people to struggle, for people to say, 'Wow, what am I going to
eat tomorrow?'" he said.
This isn't the first
community project for Mihalinec. He helped establish the Greater Trilby
Community Association, which has brought affordable housing to the community's
disabled residents, and has been involved with Habitat for Humanity projects,
development of the Withlacoochee Trail State Park, Crime Watch and
Though Mihalinec has
seen other projects to fruition, Journey Village will be one of his most
time-consuming and expensive.
going to be his largest obstacle," said Joy Hampton, assistant district
director for U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite. Hampton met with Mihalinec last week
and listened to his plan, but says it's too early to say whether Brown-Waite
would support it.
$100,000 and 5 acres donated to start up Journey Village.
Rep. Weatherford said
he wants to help Mihalinec get government funding once the 5 acres are secured.
"It's hard to
get state funding for someone or push for a pilot project if we don't have a
place to do it," Weatherford said.
Overall, he was
impressed by the Journey Village idea.
It's thinking outside the box," Weatherford said. "I think he will get
if off the ground. His heart's in it."
Helen Anne Travis can
be reached at (352) 521-6518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to help
Denny Mihalinec is
seeking volunteers, sponsors and donations for his Journey Village plan. Call
(813) 948-9596 or e-mail email@example.com.
Credit: Times Staff