PINELLAS COUNTY LAUNCHES 10 YEAR PLAN TO END HOMELESSNESS-Andrew Stelzer

04/05/06

Pinellas County launched a 10-year plan to end homelessness today at a press conference outside St Anthony’s hospital on North 7th avenue. The plan was the product of 2 years of meetings of a group that has come to be called the Homeless leadership Network. That group includes elected officials from various cities throughout the county, county commissioners, as well as representatives from various business and non-profit groups. The number of homeless people in Pinellas county has risen from 2,300 in 2003, to more than 4,500, and Clearwater city council woman Carlon Peterson vice chair of the homeless leadership network, said the demographics have changed as well.

ACT “When you talk about homeless, people think of a man running through the neighborhood. 20 percent grew up here, 62% have lived here, they work, the face of homelessness in changing. What is most frightening is children, single moms with kids that number is increasing rapidly..�

The plan includes many facets aimed at creating a continuum of services which can take someone from the streets to independence. Some of the initiatives include increasing the number of available beds in shelters, transitional housing and supportive housing, deploying street outreach teams, increasing public transportation options, and protecting mobile home renters from getting evicted when their land is sold. The county also hopes to recruit a spokesperson for the plan, with the aim of getting the support of business leaders, faith based groups, and local governments throughout the county. Ford Kyes, president and CEO of St Anthonys, and chairman elect of the St Pete chamber of Commerce, said any businessman knows they have to have a plan to accomplish a goal, and the lack of a plan has doomed helping the homeless population to failure.

ACT-Kyes “Its increases healthcare costs, it effects the cost of social services, its just doesn’t make good business sense to have a large homeless problem..�

Philip Mangano was appointed by President Bush to be the Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness 4 years ago, he spends the bulk of his time traveling from city to city, encouraging local governments and business interests to craft 10 year plans to end homelessness.

ACT-Mangano “We’ve long understood moral, but now its political will, because economics show it…Boston…san Diego over the 1980s mecca for homeless, time out we’ve accommodated, they followed 15 homeless in their interactions in emergency rooms with courts, etc, they cost the city 3 million dollars, and average, they thought we could have placed them in Oceanside condos it would have cost less.�

A representative from the Tampa HUD office said she was skeptical 2 years ago that the group would follow through on its goal of coming up with a plan to end homelessness. St Pete city councilman Jaime Bennett, a member of the Homeless Leadership Network, said the 10-year plan will be partially paid for with money from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as other funding sources.

ACT-Bennett “Our outreach program is 280k, we are asking county for that, we are also going to determine a food and beverage tax, we need the health community, if e co-join with health, I can see funding coming forward..�

25 million dollars is already being spent every year in Pinellas County on homeless services, but Mangano says that like many other cities and counties throughout the country, its not coordinated, and its not working.

ACT-Mangano “The old ad-hoc crisis interventions haven’t gotten the job done, look at our streets, skid row, 45 hundred people….that status quo is being interrupted..despite our best intentions..its been 25 years increasing ..

ACT-Mangano “We’ve been bailing the leaking boat of homelessness for 25 years..Seen them cycling through healthcare..Just ask st. Anthony’s about costs..

After Mangana was done speaking Reverend Bruce Wright, Director of the Refuge, a Ministry based in St. Petersburg, yelled out that the entire press conference and 10 year plan was a farce.

ACT- �this is a farce..where is the voice of the homeless..please let us finish..�

WMNF spoke to Wright about his concerns.

ACT-Wright “you don’t have any homeless here to speak..you have the bush admin saying they haven’t spent..they’ve cut the budget..defunding of programs..We went from 4081 to 4700, 18% increase..HUD isn’t going with us, they are cutting back..Mayor Baker is behind the 10 year plan, but he’s supporting an ordinance that states the city is empowering those who need to enforce the ordinance will make it impossible for the homeless to sleep and will cite them and arrest them ..anti homeless ordinance..YOU LIKE THE PLAN..I like the plan, but they are already doing things contrary..We want to end homelessness, not because these are people that deserve housing and food, but because they are a blight, it effects business interest..�

One aspect of the 10 year plan is to lobby against and eliminate laws that criminalize homeless people, and try to avoid giving them criminal records that will then hamper them from becoming self sufficient.. WMNF asked St Pete Mayor Rick Baker about the ordinance being debated at Thursdays city council meeting.

ACT-Baker “The only ordinance make its legal to walk on street, its already illegal.the ordinance on the books, the one that comes tomorrow, sweeping, so we are trying to make it legal..�

St Pete city councilman Jaime Bennett agreed with Baker.

ACT-Bennett “He’s misguided on that idea, the issue is sidewalks, the break the law, we have to provide shelters, living in tents and this gentleman..Its not anti-camping, its actually if someone is walking on sidewalks…in a park its already illegal to sleep..We wont have stepped up enforcement, jail costs money, but you cant set up a camp in parks, that doesn’t make us mean�

For more information about the 10 year plan to end homelessness in Pinellas county, log onto www.pinellascounty.org/homeless-policy-group/

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