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Old 07-14-2011, 06:10 AM
 
Location: The 'burg
428 posts, read 1,360,943 times
Reputation: 279

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St. Petersburg police tell homeless people they can no longer sleep on streets

By Aubrey Whelan, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Thursday, July 14, 2011
Ken Bane sits in the back of a St. Petersburg police cruiser outside City Hall before being given a ride to Pinellas Safe Harbor, the county’s homeless shelter, Wednesday for the evening. Bane was picked up at Williams Park, which was virtually empty of homeless people.
[CHRIS ZUPPA | Times]


ST. PETERSBURG — Police officers swatted at bugs and checked their cell phones. Mayor Bill Foster shook hands with passers-by. A squad car sat idle — there was no need for it Wednesday night.
The plan had been to spend the evening outside City Hall, telling homeless people that police now can enforce a 2007 ordinance that prohibits sleeping in public rights of way. The only catch? There was no one to talk to.
Police and officials were hard pressed to find homeless people downtown on Wednesday, this in a town where just a few months ago nearly 200 people regularly slept in parks and on sidewalks, especially around City Hall.
"For the first time, we didn't have to clean up the street. There was nobody here last night," said Robert Marbut, a consultant hired by the city in October to help deal with homeless issues. "Everything's coming together."
Police haven't been able to enforce the city's public sleeping ban before because of a lack of available beds in area shelters.
Now that Pinellas Safe Harbor, the county's homeless shelter, is operating with excess capacity, police have started giving homeless people options: go to the shelter, find somewhere else to sleep or be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
"Those who really want to exercise the right to sleep on a sidewalk need to do in another county," Foster said Wednesday.
Police approached about 29 people Tuesday night, the first night that the ordinance could be enforced. About 23 went to Safe Harbor; others went to hotels or other shelters.
On Wednesday night, officers waited outside City Hall to offer assistance again, but few people walked by. Williams Park and Mirror Lake, traditional stomping grounds for the city's homeless, were nearly empty.
One woman, wiping tears from her eyes, approached Officer Rich Linkiewicz outside City Hall and asked for help. Marbut helped her into a police van.
"Hop on in, dear. You're fine. Hang in there," he said before Linkiewicz drove her to Turning Point, a local detox facility.
Foster, who followed officers on patrol Tuesday night, said he was surprised by how well the ordinance has been received.
"I truly expected some resistance, but people are very grateful," he said. "(Tuesday) night was amazing. We had 100 percent compliance."
Still, some are skeptical.
Pat Alston, 52, who's been off the streets for eight months, said it's hard for the homeless to transition once they move to a shelter, and many return to the streets or continue using drugs and alcohol.
"I've been talking to a lot of people about (the ordinance)," she said, sitting in Williams Park at dusk Wednesday night. "People will come out (of the shelter), drink, get high and then go straight back. It's very easy to get stuck."
Police say they're not looking to arrest the homeless — just get them off the streets. However, officers will arrest repeat offenders or people who refuse to leave the right-of-way, police spokesman Mike Puetz said.
Marbut usually circles downtown until midnight or 2 a.m., taking stock of the city's homeless. When he arrived last year, it wasn't unusual to find 180 people in Williams Park alone. On Tuesday night, he found just two in all of downtown.
"I wanted to wake people up and tell them what I saw," he said, laughing.

Last edited by Angler; 07-14-2011 at 06:11 AM.. Reason: clean up link
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Old 07-14-2011, 06:15 AM
 
Location: Tampa, FL
1,389 posts, read 2,068,635 times
Reputation: 993
oh. wonderful.

*looks out window*
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Old 07-14-2011, 06:58 AM
 
1,106 posts, read 2,048,251 times
Reputation: 954
Quote:
"Those who really want to exercise the right to sleep on a sidewalk need to do in another county"
Bill Foster is doing exactly what his constituents (like myself) elected him to do: wash the scum off the streets. I hope that Tampa is ready to start taking the additional wave of homeless that is going to be coming their way...
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Old 07-14-2011, 09:32 AM
 
817 posts, read 2,017,818 times
Reputation: 999
WHY CAN'T HILLSBOROUGH DO THIS?

I just DO NOT GET IT.

I know a young, beautiful, fresh college graduate....smart, good looking, ambitious...who moved to Tampa last year. She's living in Park Crest on Harbour Island. Professional, great future....EXACTLY the kind of person we want in Tampa.

She told me just last week that she wants to move away from Tampa. Why?

Every time she goes out for a jog through downtown, bums harass her. Now, she draws attention naturally...she's very pretty and fit...but she said it's depressing to see all the homeless people sleeping on sidewalks at high noon, or to have them make comments about her as she runs past them...she said it makes the town look disgusting to have these vagrants shuffling around. She said it's like living in a slum and she wants to live somewhere that is nice, not a giant outdoor homeless shelter.

So why can't Hillsborough get these bums off the street? Has anyone asked the county commission why they continually vote down these sorts of common-sense laws?
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Old 07-14-2011, 10:24 AM
 
571 posts, read 705,682 times
Reputation: 595
Great news. Sounds like good news for the homeless too. It was getting ridiculous, there's no reason that people should be allowed to lay around on public property all day and night. It isn't fair to everyone else who might want to utilize a public park or walk around town and not get accosted.

Let's hope they enforce loitering laws during the day too.
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:19 PM
 
Location: Tampa, FL
27,798 posts, read 27,954,239 times
Reputation: 14611
Quote:
Originally Posted by chi_tino View Post
Bill Foster is doing exactly what his constituents (like myself) elected him to do: wash the scum off the streets. I hope that Tampa is ready to start taking the additional wave of homeless that is going to be coming their way...
As I walked through a couple of parks downtown Tampa on Tuesday night, I was surprised to see so few homeless on the park benches or around Curtis Hixon park - I assumed that Tampa was policing up the parks or had a law against sleeping there. I did pass a couple of people who appeared to be homeless (but one had a laptop that was putting out some music among his belongings) - and did feel a little on the alarmed side as I passed by. It shouldn't be like that (should be able to walk the streets without fear of being held up, killed, etc). Its a shame that a segment of our socieity have to live like this - some with psychiatric problems needing treatment - but to tell the truth, we've had homeless folks for as long as we've been a nation.
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Old 07-14-2011, 03:32 PM
 
Location: Tampa, FL
3,237 posts, read 5,474,810 times
Reputation: 1492
Hillsborough County needs a law like this
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Old 07-14-2011, 07:01 PM
 
45 posts, read 56,933 times
Reputation: 33
Yes! Let's ban poor people so they will disappear!! No one is allowed to be poor!!!
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Old 07-14-2011, 07:40 PM
 
Location: Tampa, FL
3,237 posts, read 5,474,810 times
Reputation: 1492
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Anti CPA View Post
Yes! Let's ban poor people so they will disappear!! No one is allowed to be poor!!!
Some people are poor by choice. The ones hanging out on the same streetcorner year after year need to be bussed to the county line and dropped off with a warning that if they come back their ride back to the county line wont be in a bus
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Old 07-14-2011, 08:33 PM
 
Location: tampa bay
6,697 posts, read 7,288,836 times
Reputation: 10106
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Anti CPA View Post
Yes! Let's ban poor people so they will disappear!! No one is allowed to be poor!!!
Many times the reason people sleep on the streets is not poverty but mental illness. It is very intimidating for a woman to walk past a gauntlet of mentally ill or drug addicted men! Where does one persons right begin and anothers end? Maybe it's when one poses a threat to the other!
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