St Pete Tent City 'residents' feel burned by Mitch E. Perry

01/09/07

As a Friday deadline looms to disband the Tent City  camp of homeless people on Fourth Avenue North in St. Petersburg, social service coordinators are scrambling to find extra shelter beds for some of those people in the camp. Others are offering bus tickets, rental assistance and recovery programs.This morning, Pinellas County officials sent out a press release saying that the Pinellas County Department of Human Services, the City of St. Petersburg, and a host of social service groups are working every day to provide services to those in the camp – as well as to determine where they will soon be going.But today several members of the Tent City Camp said they had gone down to the Pinellas County Human Services division on Monday – and been shut out.28 year old Casey Schnabel hails from Ohio.(roll tape#1 o.q.”we cannot give you a bus pass” )    Bryan Pennington does work, but says he’s homeless because he doesn’t have enough money to afford what is required to move into an apartment – generally first and last months rent, and sometimes, a security deposit. (roll tape#2 o.q.”some kind of help”)Monday was the first day that Pinellas County officials were working on assisting those living in the Tent City.  Cliff Smith is the Assistant Director for Pinellas County Human Services.  He said that there may have been some miscommunications  between the staff and the citizens about qualifications (roll tape#3 o.q.”one months’ rent”)

37 year old Sebastian Grimmage is from Orlando, and spoke with WMNF when we visited Tent City its first weekend.  He says people are disheartened by what’s happened with their interactions with Pinellas County officials, and calls their offer to help  a ‘hoax’ (roll tape#4 o.q.” from the people”)

But the County’s Cliff Smith says the County never said it would offer housing vouchers to just anybody in the Tent City (roll tape#5 o.q.”a doctors statement”)

St. Petersburg Activist Eric Rubin has helping out at the Tent City. He says that the housing vouchers themselves aren’t worth that much, because there aren’t many housing units that are available to accept them (roll tape#6 o.q.”Catch 22”)

Pinellas County Assistant Director for Pinellas County Human Services, Cliff Smith, agrees with Rubin (roll tape#7 o.q.”  it’s hard to find places”)

The clock is ticking on the Tent City.  Officials have said that they will close it down at 12 Midnight Friday, at the latest.  Activist Eric Rubin says that those in tent city have come to an agreement that they don’t want any benefits that any other homeless person in St. Petersburg isn’t entitled to.

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