St. Pete: '2nd meanest city in the country for the homeless'

07/14/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

A national homeless organization today called St. Petersburg the second-meanest city in the country for the homeless.

The National Coalition for the Homeless says St. Pete stands only behind Los Angeles in being unfair to the homeless. Overall, four Florida cities make the top 10, with Orlando listed 3rd, Gainesville, 5th, and Bradenton 9th.

Topping the reasons why St. Pete makes the Coalition’s list is the infamous January 2007 shredding of tents being lived in by the homeless, as well as six new ordinances that have been passed since that time. The ordinance place restrictions on panhandling, prohibit the storage of personal belongings on public property in the city, and make it unlawful to sleep outside at various locations.

In May, homeless people and their advocates sued St. Petersburg, saying many of those ordinances are unconstitutional.

St. Petersburg City Councilman Jamie Bennett called the ranking 'absurd'.

The Reverend Bruce Wright has been one of the leading advocates for the homeless in St Petersburg. He says Bennett’s reaction is typical.

Bradenton is ranked as the 9th meanest city for the homeless, sandwiched between Honolulu and Berkeley, California.

Councilman Jamie Bennett, a candidate for Mayor in St. Petersburg, says that every city in the country is grappling with the homeless. He says things have gotten worse in Pinellas County, and attributes that to not only the deteriorating economic conditions, but also says that there are groups that encourage the homeless to come to Pinellas on websites.

Since the January 07 incident, the city and the County came together together to create Pinellas Hope, a temporary shelter located in Pinellas Park that houses up to 250 people.

But homeless advocate Bruce Wright is scathing in his description about that facility, organized by the Catholic Charities.

Other cities listed in the top 10 meanest for the homeless include Atlanta (#4); Kalamazoo (#6), and San Francisco (#7). To read the report for yourself, go to nationalhomeless.org

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