HOMELESS PROTEST IN ST. PETERSBURG BY DAWN MORGAN11/27/06
According to a 2005 study, there are over 4,500 homeless people in Pinellas County. The Homeless Planning and Policy Group of St. Petersburg survey shows that 34% work full or part time. 23% receive assistance such as disability, retirement or veterans benefits yet cannot afford to put and keep a roof over their heads
The homeless also face discrimination, especially in downtown St. Petersburg, where a protest Friday night outside of Baywalk put â€œpeople before profitâ€? and brought light to the issues the homeless face in St. Petersburg. Dawn Morgan has more.
(Clip - protest march ambience. Fade out.) (clip Rev. Bruce1 â€“ everyone has the right, according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, as well as our own Constitution, to be unmolested, to have the right to food, clothing and shelter. .11 sec) (clip - Rev Bruce dignity .9 sec)
The Reverend Bruce Wright led advocates, volunteers, the homeless and the formerly homeless in a march from Williams Park to Baywalk in downtown St. Pete where they protested Friday night from 9 to 11PM.
Before the march, Rev. Wright spoke in Williams Park at a picnic sponsored by the group Food Not Bombs, telling those who gathered of the needs of the homeless and the discrimination they face in this community. He said heâ€™ll lead protests every month until the following demands are met.
(clip â€“ Rev Bruce demands .40 seconds)
Emergency beds number around 600, but the unmet need calls for 700 more. There are fewer than 1000 transitional housing beds available, and the unmet need calls for 400 more. And currently, there exists 335 housing units, but there is a need for over 1,000 more homes.
Rhonda Abbott is the manager of social service planning for the city of St. Petersburg and said the protest â€œdeters positive attention to the issues at hand.â€? Sheâ€™s been involved in social services in Pinellas County for over 20 years and says things take time to be put in place. Earlier this year the county began implementation of their 10 year Plan on Homelessness.
(clip â€“ Rhonda abbott1)
Kathleen Manyanâ€™s 16 and 17 year old children began volunteering with both Food Not Bombs and St. Pete for Peace after the start of the war in Iraq and she began to tag along shortly after.
Friday night she was among the activists who marched side by side with homeless citizens, demanding rights and protesting mistreatment.
( clip - Kathleen manyan 18.52 purpose of event is to bring attention to the issue of homelessness in St. Pete. Critical shortage of shelter space. Taken away the benches. The city and the mayor have not been friendly in this community. Regularly harassed by the police. )
City of St. Petersburg Police Lieutenant Dee Dee Carin was at Baywalk to keep the peace for patrons and protestors alike.
(clip - Lt. Dee Dee Carin2)
Pinellas county 10th graders Ryan and Matt are among the high schoolers that hang out at Baywalk every Friday night. WMNF asked them their thoughts on what makes a person homeless.
(clip the kids. Ryan, matt and eric1: M: Not working? R: Not going to school, getting a good education. Thatâ€™s what my dad tells me. M: Not having the willpower to get up. And sometimes canâ€™t help it. Sickness.)
15 year old Eric is in a criminal justice program that required a number of service hours, so he volunteered at the Free Aid clinic. Because of that experience, he recognized a lot of the faces in the crowd Friday night.
(clip - Eric: 15 years old. Homelessness is not having anything you need or want. Necessities. Like a home, food. But I find a lot of H are getting food. A couple months ago I volunteered at the free aid clinic. Some of them here I recognize. Getting the food and toiletries but not the shelter. Had to do it for school hours in a criminal justice program. I learned where different people come from, how they were raised and why they are the way they are.â€?)
But not all patrons showed such openness as they made their way in and out of the crowd of protestors on the sidewalks around Baywalk. The tension was high between shoppers, volunteers and the homeless.
(clip â€“ I just got out of jail not too long ago.get a jobâ€¦
The shopper, who told the unidentified homeless man to â€œget a job,â€? was one of many patrons to make such a verbal attack. But she was among the few to stop and talk to the man and share her circumstances and frustrations.
(clip â€“ anniversary couple .39 sec)
Walt Jowers was cycling the streets of St. Pete Friday evening when he happened upon the protest at Baywalk. He works as a carpenter and welder and understands the plight of day laborers, many of which are homeless. He has many ideas on how to help the homeless and wants to see results on a national and local level.
(Clip - â€œI want way to stop Homelessness. Get old warehouses for people to go. Iâ€™ve worked in day labor. 40 hours a week. Live in a hotel on Central for $45 a night. Get paid $47 a day. In Denver, labor pool pays the $15 for a cubicle. Why canâ€™t this be done? Itâ€™s called greed.
Iâ€™ve seen the misery in these peopleâ€™s faces. They havenâ€™t got jobs, well, they do have jobs, but no place to lay their heads at night. A lot of the cities and counties out here donâ€™t want to say that it exists. Denver, Atlanta. Time that people speak up for the reality out here.â€?)
Another homeless advocate, who stays on the street himself, also feels the need for different kinds of action to solve the problem of homelessness.
(clip -, If we can actually sit down and discuss instead of back door deals and unilateral actions w/o talking to the constituencies that really need to sit down and be at the table, committees really wonâ€™t solve anything. )
(clip â€“ sax ambience.)
This is Dawn Morgan reporting from St. Petersburg, for WMNF News.