Pinellas Hope turns shipping containers to housing

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It's a common sight near Tampa's cruise ships: discarded shipping containers piled high along Adamo Drive, but now, those one-trippers are finding a second life at Pinellas Hope.

The homeless shelter is turning old shipping containers into housing for its residents.

The shelter, run by Catholic Charities, is buying used containers and welding them into safe places for their residents to stay. Each shipping container is split into three individual homes. From start to finish, they break up the shell of the container into the temporary housing in a matter of seven days at a cost of about $25,000 per container.

"We cut all the doorways, cut space for the air conditioners. We weld it all up. It goes into our shop for framing, insulation, electrical," Coastal Alliance Group's Jimmy Schmidt said Tuesday.

Right now, they have five containers divvied up into 15 individual rooms for residents.

"They're not wasting their money on a motel and it's just the next step in preparing them for their forever home," Catholic Charities' Pam Long said.

Each unit is outfitted with a small AC unit, LED lighting, and a lock on the door. Plus, Pinellas Hope says it's a much safer alternative to their tent city during storm season.

"If a storm comes in, would you rather be in a steel box or a wooden box? It will withstand 140mph winds," Schmidt said. 

The metal shelters could eventually replace the majority of their tents. While it's certainly a no-frills stay, the tiny, square space is an answered prayer at Pinellas Hope.

"I can tell you, the three keys that I've given out have all come with tears. Happy tears," Long smiled.

Pinellas Hope is in the process of fundraising to buy and outfit the 50 shipping containers it needs and hopes to raise $1.25 million to achieve the goal.