Memorial honors deceased homeless in Pinellas

12/21/09 Arielle Stevenson
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The dirt road to Pinellas Hope is a dead end. In an industrial cul-de-sac in Pinellas Park, there are rows of tents and small houses. As the sun set on the makeshift community today, over a hundred people congregated to remember more than a dozen people who died as a result of homelessness in Pinellas County. Father Joe Diaz read the evening’s homily.

Among those being memorialized was Kimberlee Sue Good. Good was a resident at Pinellas Hope and was beaten to death by a Pasco drifter. Another, Andrew McKensie, was found dead along the railroad tracks in Pinellas Park. The names of the dead were read aloud as candles were lit in remembrance. Imam Sadiki of the St. Petersburg Islamic Center performed his song “Let it go” in honor of the struggles so many face in trying get off the streets.

According to a study conducted in January by the Pinellas County Center for Homelessness over 6,200 people in Pinellas County are homeless. That is a 20 percent increase from 2007. Father Bob Morris from the Diocese of St. Petersburg says awareness of homelessness is key in making progress.

But with the current recession and local budgets facing major cut backs, Morris says that funding is a major issue in combating homelessness.

Sheila Lopez works as the Chief Operating Officer of Catholic Charities. She coordinates much of what goes on at Pinellas Hope. Lopez says job placement is a continual challenge in the fight to end homelessness.

Vicky and her husband David were homeless for six years before coming to Pinellas Hope three weeks ago. They say some people who need help don’t want to seek it.

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