Thursday, July 14, 2011

Homeless given ultimatums by St. Pete police

Quietly and with little fanfare, St. Petersburg has taken its next step in dealing with its homeless population.

Police have begun telling the homeless that if there is available bed space at one of two shelters, they have to go there -- or go to jail.

One of the shelters is Safe Harbor, the new homeless shelter in Clearwater; the other is the St. Petersburg shelter run by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

A new courtyard with 100 spots has opened outside Safe Harbor, which is run by the Pinellas Sheriff's Office. That brings the total occupancy to 470.

So there is plenty of space for the police department to start enforcing an ordinance that prohibits the homeless from sleeping on any right of way, including the sidewalk, if there is an available bed at a shelter. If there weren't any beds available at either of the two shelters, they couldn't enforce it.

The courtyard is reserved for the more problematic homeless, a sheriff's spokesman said. There are rubber mats underneath mattresses, picnic tables and portable toilets. Huge canopies protect the homeless in the courtyard from the rain.

The idea is that once the more disruptive start behaving, they can land a spot inside, where they get a bunk bed, regular meals, and shower facilities.

Read the Tampa Tribune report here.


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Although this, to some, may seem a little harsh, I think it is a good first step to helping the homeless get back into main stream society.

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