Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tent City to Open in St. Petersburg:

After more than 100 homeless men and women set up rows of tents under an overpass near downtown St. Petersburg last December, government officials and local charities decried the shantytown's unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

Almost a year later, a new "tent city" will open Saturday. Optimistically dubbed Pinellas Hope, the outdoor shelter will feature portable showers and restrooms and individual tents outfitted with 4- inch-thick mats.

After months of brainstorming about how to solve the homeless problem, this is the solution that advocates and government officials came up with.

No one knows if or how it will work out.

"It is an experiment," said Frank Murphy, president of the Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg, which will operate the camp. "We all sit around and say, 'What do you think is going to happen?'"

Pinellas Hope will sprawl across 7 acres along 126th Avenue N near 49th Street.

The tent city will include an outdoor dining room, computers, Internet access and designated areas where the homeless can speak with caseworkers, social service agency representatives and other support facilitators.

At least 225 tents will be available. Volunteers will bring in prepared food and serve warm dinners.

The shelter is expected to remain open through April 30.

"You are going to see a place which is a bit more humane than last year's tent
city," said City Council chairman Jamie Bennett. "It still is a tent city, but
it is better than a cold sidewalk in the dark of night."

But Pinellas Hope is a far cry from the permanent shelter officials promised in January, when the area's homeless crisis was thrust into the national spotlight after St. Petersburg police officers, citing a fire safety code, slashed dozens of tents occupied by the homeless.

Then, in June, the state Legislature demanded that government agencies trim their budgets. Many cities, including St. Petersburg, responded by slashing funding to social services in order to protect other expenses, such as those for police and fire service.

Michael Amidei, chairman of the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless' Interfaith Committee and a founder of the original tent city that opened in December, said local charities or cities will probably not be able to secure money to build a permanent shelter any time soon.

Pinellas Hope "is what it is," he said. "It is a Band-Aid solution for a five-month period of time, but that's considerably longer than the other tent cities have operated before."

Catholic Charities has received dozens of calls from homeless men and women interested in reserving a tent at Pinellas Hope. They were told to show up early on Saturday, Murphy said.

All potential residents will need to pass a background check. Among other safety measures: The complex will be fenced, and a 24-hour security guard will be present.

"It will be safe for them," Murphy said. "When they are lying on the street, there is no safety."

Some homeless residents have expressed concern that they will be fined or arrested if they do not move into Pinellas Hope.

An ordinance passed by the City Council this year prohibits camping and sleeping on St. Petersburg's streets if shelter beds are available.

Bennett said those rumors are false. The city will not arrest or penalize those who refuse to move to the tent city, he said.

"Tell me in our history when we have done that," Bennett said. "Our Police Department has been patient and they have really shown restraint when they could have been heavy-handed at any point."

What remains to be seen is how many people will show up Saturday looking for
help, Murphy said, and how many will stay.

"If they look and they don't like it, they can go," he said.

by Cristina Silva St. Petersburg Times

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Homeless demonstration in St. Petersburg before GOP debate:

With the CNN/YouTube Republican debate tomorrow in St. Petersburg, members of the homeless community and activists are drawing attention to the city’s treatment of the homeless by holding a four-night sleep-in at the site where the debate will be held.

Yesterday they were forced to move across the street from the Mahaffey Theater to the sidewalk in front of the Hilton Hotel on 4th avenue south at first street southeast.

The Rev. Bruce Wright is pastor and director of Refuge Ministries. Wright said he and nine other people began a juice and water hunger strike on Sunday night in order to get the city of St. Petersburg to improve conditions for people who don’t have a place to live.

The solution suggested by the homeless involves a plan to move people into permanent shelters. Wright said that advocates and people who are homeless oppose the city’s use of the new Pinellas HOPE tent city, in part because it is a waste of resources that could be used for permanent solutions.

G. W. Rohl was once homeless and is an organizer of the sleep-in at the Mahaffey. He doesn’t like the city’s tent city idea because it’s temporary and far away from social services.

This morning St. Petersburg police removed some personal possessions of people who live on sidewalks under Interstate 375, outside the St. Vincent de Paul Society at 15th Street N and 5th Avenue N.

Homeless advocate Eric Rubin said Officer Sandra Miner and other St. Pete Police officers threw away the belongings of some people living there.

Rubin said tonight there will be a solidarity march from the St. Vincent de Paul Society under I-375 at 15th Street N and 5th Avenue N to the Hilton Hotel across from the Mahaffey Theater on 4th Avenue S at 1st Street SE to join the sleep-in.

11/27/07 Seán Kinane
WMNF Evening News Tuesday

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

20,000 fewer chronically homeless on streets:

The federal government is taking credit for what it says is a nearly 12 percent drop in the number of people who are chronically homeless, according to government estimates being released Wednesday.

About 20,000 fewer chronically homeless were on the streets from 2005 to 2006, says the Department of Housing and Urban Development citing its programs designed to move homeless people into permanent housing.

HUD says people are chronically homeless if they have been continuously living on the streets for a year or more, or if they have been homeless at least four times in the past three years. They also have to have a disability, often mental illness or substance abuse.

The number of chronically homeless people dropped from 175,900 in 2005 to 155,600 in 2006, according to data collected by HUD from about 3,900 cities and counties.

Many cities had declines. New York, New York, went from 7,002 in 2005 to 6,503 in 2006, HUD reported. In Miami-Dade County, Florida, the number dropped from 831 in 2005 to 577 the following year. In Washington, D.C., the number increased from 1,773 to 1,891, though city officials told HUDHUD they believed the change was caused in part by better counting methods.

Advocates for the homeless said they expected a decrease on the national level, given the government's increasing emphasis on permanent housing instead of temporary shelters.

"In the past few years, there has been a significant investment in ending chronic homelessness, both in time and resources," said Mary Cunningham, director of the Homelessness Research Institute at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

"Communities across the country are really working hard on this issue," she said. "It would be a major disappointment if the numbers were not going down."

HUD has been shifting resources from emergency shelters to transitional and permanent housing for years. The number of emergency shelter beds dropped by 35 percent from 1996 to 2005, to 217,900.

Meanwhile, the number of beds in permanent housing for the homeless increased by 83 percent, to 208,700.

HUD spent $287 million last year on programs that serve people who are chronically homeless, creating 4,000 permanent housing units, the agency said.

Earlier this year, HUD estimated there were a total of 754,000 homeless people on a given night in January 2005. The overall estimate for 2006 is expected early next year.

The homeless are notoriously difficult to count, though HUD started requiring housing agencies to try in 2005. The agencies are required to count their local homeless populations every other year, though about 60 percent do it annually.

The 2006 estimate for people who were chronically homeless was based on annual data from agencies that conduct the counts each year.
AP November 5, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hide-Away Storage gives $30,000 to Salvation Army:

Steve Wilson, managing partner of Hide-Away Storage, celebrated the 30th anniversary of his business by giving $30,000 to area Salvation Army shelters and churches today.

Wilson gave $12,000 to The Salvation Army in Manatee County to help cover shelter expenses for the homeless. The Salvation Army of Sarasota County received $9,000.

The remainder of Hide-Away's $30,000 gift was presented to The Salvation Army operations in St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, and Naples.

"We wanted to find a way to show our appreciation to our thousands and thousands of wonderful customers and also to the communities in which we have served during the past 30 years, Wilson said in news release. "It just seemed natural to choose the Salvation Army for our 30th anniversary celebration gift. After all, the Salvation Army is one of the most admired service organizations worldwide. And we try to use the Salvation Army as a model of how we at the Hide-Away Storage can serve our customer base."

The gifts come at a crucial time when supplies are low and the numbers of homeless are on the increase, said Ashley Canesse, development director of The Salvation Army in Bradenton. "People who used to donate to us are finding themselves now in need."

The $12,000 gift to the Bradenton shelter will house, feed and provide case management for 40 women and children for nine critical days and nights," says Major Tony Barrington, area coordinator for The Salvation Army, Manatee.

The first Hide-Away Storage location began in September of 1977 in Bradenton. There are now 10 locations, three in Bradenton, three in Sarasota, and one each in Ellenton, St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, and Naples.

Staff Report Bradenton Herald 11/5/07

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?