Local shelter provides safe place for Tampa’s homeless

It’s a homeless shelter run by homeless people. Located on Florida Avenue in Hillsborough County, Homeless Helping Homeless houses dozens of people.

“We are 100 percent donation based, so that limits the amount people we can help,” said marketing and social media coordinator Kristen Ellis. “We’re limited in the things we can do.”

The organization is looking to expand their outreach to at least 36 more beds within the year. Currently, they have room for 18 beds in the main office, and rooms for more people in need at their women’s facility right down the street.

“We don’t take grants because we serve a niche of people that don’t qualify for those grants,” Ellis said.

If they take federal assistance, they would have to drug test their clients and make them meet certain rules. Ellis wants people to know that is not Homeless Helping Homeless’s calling.

“These people have their own journey, though it may be why they’re in this situation. We believe everyone has the right to a safe place to sleep,” Ellis said.

Current client and former heroin addict Celeste Dogmi is a testament to this. Dogmi has been sober for over a year and says it’s because of the homeless shelter.

“I was thrown out of rehab with no place to go,” Dogmi said. “It’s helping me with sober living, food, shelter and stability.”

The organization’s intention is not to change an addict’s lifestyle, but to help in whatever way a client wants them to. But if their help leads to someone getting clean, they consider that a win.

Kids horse around to support nonprofit

Armando Gort had one dream when he was a boy: to have his own farm. Today, that dream is a reality.

There are many animals on Gort’s farm, even though his original thought was that he would only have a few horses. He began riding horses as a young child.

“I started when I was five or six years old. My dad used to have animals, so he got me involved with animals,” he said.

He is now the founder of a nonprofit called HorsePower for Kids. Children and adults come to learn and interact with the animals.

All ages are welcome. There is a petting zoo for younger kids, and older kids can ride the horses.

It takes many volunteers to run the nonprofit. Saskia Ravelli, farm manager, says volunteers provide 95 percent of the help.

“On a regular basis during the week, we probably have about 80, but with special events, it goes up to about 300,” Ravelli said.

HorsePower for Kids is hosting a fall fundraiser with hay rides, live music, pony rides, games and activities. The event runs Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Oct. 3 through Nov. 1. Admission is $10 per person.

Money raised pays for the care of animals. Ravelli said it costs $25,000 to operate the farm.