Will St. Pete enforce its public sleeping law now that a new homeless shelter has opened?
ST. PETERSBURG -- There’s been a lot of talk about whether the city of St. Petersburg will try to enforce its ordinance against sleeping in public rights-of-way once the new shelter ups its capacity.
Police Chief Chuck Harmon said police don’t want to have to arrest someone for sleeping in public, but they will if shelter beds are available.
“(Arresting them) is the last thing we want to do. But it’s an ordinance. It’s on the books. We will enforce it it’s the last resort to get somebody into the appropriate facility,” he said. “I’m right there with the mayor. We don’t want people sleeping in cardboard boxes on the street. It’s not the safe thing to do. It’s not humane.”
He said the department will decide on a case-by-case basis when they can enforce the ban.
“One night it may be, one night it may not be. It’s like when the cold shelters open up. Technically we can enforce that. But the last time we were able to talk people into going into those shelters. The intent is not to force them into a shelter. The intent is to get them to voluntarily do things that are good for them.”
Who will decide when the department can enforce the sleeping ban?
Harmon said it probably be left to himself and his command staff to decide that there are enough beds available to enforce the ban.
“I think before we make that arrest we would have the discussion at the staff level.”