Cassidy A McCaughin – Home Town to Homeless

Cassidy McCaughin

The participant I am using for this project is my best friend Alexandria Chiasson. Everyone that knows her calls her Alex, so for this project that is how I will be referring to her. I have known Alex for about 7 years, but became close to her about 5 years ago. We both went to the same middle and high-school in our home-town of Land 0’ Lakes, which is about 20 minutes away from Tampa FL. She currently goes to the University of South Florida and is majoring in political science. She is 19 years old, making her the youngest in the friend group! Despite her age, she is 100% the mom of our group. That is why I picked her for this because I know I could count on her!

I, Alex Chiasson, consent to sharing photos and my thoughts on the environment Cassidy has chosen for the purpose of this project.


Although I currently do not live in Tampa anymore, I visit frequently. It seems as though every time I go home something like this image is more abundant. What I believe Alex’s concerns are the fact that this once busy part of the neighborhood now looks like this. It is no secret that our home town faces a lot of homelessness. “According to the 2019 Homeless Count in Hillsborough County, on any given night there are at least 1,650 homeless men, women, and children in Tampa-Hillsborough County.  These are people who are sleeping on the streets, behind buildings, in encampments, in cars, emergency shelters and transitional housing.” ( When I continued my research I was shocked to find this statistic. Alex is a people person, and she has very strong political beliefs as well. I know taking these images was probably hard for her. She wants to convey how as a member of this community how quickly things can go bad and how it effects everyone within it. I also think that when people think of Tampa FL they think of the amazing food and downtown scenery, but this is real Tampa. This is the face of the town that everyone wants to shy away from. There is a real problem with homelessness, not only in my community, but cities far and wide. The little resources that people are given is mind blowing.
“I took this image because this was once a busy shopping plaza located only a street away from where I currently live. I witnessed the affects of bankruptcy and gentrification in a neighborhood I consider home. Since, these stores have fallen into disrepair this is now a popular spot for the homeless. You can see in this image some of the left over goods that someone has left.” Alex Chiasson
Alex informed me that this picture of this poster was taken at University mall. Back in the 19070s and 1980s this was a very popular mall, but then throughout the 1990s and 2000s there was a steady decline of retailers and customers. As Tampa as a whole started on this decline, of course something as huge as a mall will follow that pattern. It is very rarely that I would ever go to that mall. There is a lot of crime that happens around this area. And to think this mall is probably only 5 minutes away from the student housing that Alex currently lives at is insane. COVID has affect all individuals across the world differently, but for a mall already on its decline this was the last thing it needed. She told me it was almost all boarded up except for a couple entrances and that the parking plots were empty. This is probably my favorite picture Alex sent me. Like she said, this poster is ironic. It plainly states do something. Something that Tampa should do. Going back to the homelessness and the decline of the area people should be talking and trying to restore our community. The way this poster is outside of an urban empty mall during COVID is really something weird. I did some research and read multiple articles that basically says that the mall as a whole will be fully shutting down soon because all of the big retailers, besides Sears, have left. Again, keeping with the same theme as before, I believe Alex is concerned with her community and its demise.


“Due to COVID-19 the mall that hosted this poster has now almost completely shut down. This has created a really eerie feeling of an empty mall. So this poster almost seems to be ironic. COVID was the last straw for this mall because it was already on its way to becoming a ghost town.” Alex Chiasson
It is so sad seeing this picture that Alex shared with me. The over grown plants, dying trees, abandoned cars and trash. This is just another perspective of the first photo. It is crazy that a photo can hold such a negative connotation. Seeing this well known shopping center from so many different angels is saddening. Alex seems to really stay on this same theme. Once again, you can really see what Alex is passionate about. Honestly this is giving me a wake up call. It is so hard to get lost in your every day to day life and forget about the people that you do not even know. And I think thats the main reason Alex has shared these. So many people go unheard of, they do not have the platform or voice to share their concerns and needs. It is the people like us that have to make a change. And this has been happening in front many peoples eyes for years.


“Here again is another perspective of the once busy shopping strip that has now been abandoned. You can see that people come here to dump trash. A place that was once filled with cars and happy customers is now occupied by broken down cars and waste. It was sad watching the slow decline of my own community.” Alex Chiasson
The overall theme that Alex kept with was how quickly a community can go downhill. Tampa has very high highs and very low lows. I believe a factor that adds to these lows is the fact that there are a lot of big corporations being built. They are trying to include higher luxury living, eating, etc. But because of this, it forces the family run businesses and low income families to kind of be run out. This slightly relates to one of the readings we had in this class. It is the one that talks about how Latino gardeners are trying desperately to hold onto their community garden that is being taken away from a huge corporation. After starting this project, I can totally see their fear with this. I do not even know how many people in Tampa have felt this pain. Being bought out or evicted because some huge company wants to come in and make a 10 store apartment complex breaks my heart. I am so sad seeing my home town in shambles.





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