Good day, fellow traveler:

As we visit cities around this Country it’s clear that homelessness is a wicked problem. Tampa is not immune with a recent count led by the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative registering 1,817 homeless. Worse still, the Tampa Innovation Alliance area, home to some of the most powerful anchor institutions in the state of Florida, has a large preponderance of homeless. Mort Elementary School, which has 800 students, of which 95% qualify for free or reduced lunch, counts approximately 45% of its student population as homeless. This problem has evolved slowly and has many causes, but it also has a foe. Mort’s dynamic principal Woodland Johnson is leading a herculean effort to transition Mort to a community school. To learn more – read: Tampa Neighborhood Commits to Help Troubled School.

Mort Elementary

Woodland has assembled a special team to address the root problem of homelessness and has partnered with the awesome University Area Community Development Corporation – whose new Executive Director Sarah Combs is shaking things up big time in her own effort to transform the area into a place of hope and opportunity. The Tampa Innovation Alliance has joined this effort and on June 3 will kick off a 3 day CodaPalooza – a hackathon designed to bring a vast array of techies, coders, service providers and problem solvers together to develop solutions to the wicked problem of homelessness. Hillsborough County is working in tandem with this effort and hopes to put the solutions we design to use helping people, avoid or recover, from this problem.

Innovation Districts across the nation are dealing with similar problems, but we are one of the first to bring the vast array of resources prevalent in the Tampa Innovation Alliance district together to solve the problem. We hope that the solution which emerges from this effort will be announced during Richard Florida’s visit to the Tampa Innovation District on October 26 and then taken on the road to Innovation Districts across America.

There is no better time to consider our role in solving the wicked problem of homelessness than this weekend as Memorial Day approaches. On any given night more than 300,000 veterans are sleeping on the streets or in a shelter in the United States – and because the Alliance area is home to the James B. Haley Veterans hospital, the busiest polytrauma hospital in the nation, a preponderance of vets make their way to our area for medical care.

I encourage you – intrepid leader – to join this effort. Consider our children who will some day lead and those who served valiantly and are today living on the streets of Tampa – get on the team & help us take a BYTE out of homelessness.

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