St. Pete okays two homeless ordinances

01/25/08 Reif Russell Anderson
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Last night at St. Petersburg’s City Hall, City Council members voted unanimously to approve two new laws that will strongly impact the daily existence of the hundreds of homeless citizens who live in the downtown area.

The ordinances, which take effect on Feb. 1, make it unlawful to sleep on downtown sidewalks during the day or leave personal items such as clothing and bedding along the public right of way.

Melissa Mohr was among the two dozen concerned citizens who spoke for three minutes each before the City Council last night. Mohr, who once was homeless, was able to get off the streets and under her own roof just five months ago. Her central point was that homelessness could happen to any of us.

She urged the Council to place the rights of its homeless citizens before concerns over public safety and the tourist trade.

A North St. Petersburg resident named William feels that the new ordinances deserve support. He wants to see the homeless population get off the streets and take fuller advantage of the city’s initiatives to help them.

Omali Baily blames St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker and the subprime mortgage housing crisis for the dramatic rise in area homelessness.

Sandy Tospin believes that the problem of homelessness has been increased by the misuse of public funds.

In an e-mail reaction to the new ordinances that passed last night, the Rev. Bruce Wright expressed his anger that the city and its supporters have created what he called an Apartheid-like zone in the tourist and business districts of downtown St. Petersburg where the homeless can’t sleep, have their belongings, exercise freedom of movement or freedom of speech.

The debate over homelessness in downtown St. Petersburg will no doubt continue.

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