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Clearwater, home of nice beaches and jazz, deals with homeless issue

A man sleeps at Coachman Park on Wednesday. Clearwater offers a 67-bed shelter and support, yet the needs keep growing.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

A man sleeps at Coachman Park on Wednesday. Clearwater offers a 67-bed shelter and support, yet the needs keep growing.

CLEARWATER

Bryan and Amy Farrell sat on the sidewalk Monday across the street from the Clearwater Municipal Services building awaiting the weekly free meal provided by a Tampa Bay charity.

As the fall sun began to set, the Farrells lounged on the city's lawn and ate turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, and potatoes and gravy.

By the time dusk had set in, the two, carrying everything they own, had slipped away into the darkness where they would spend the night, likely on the ground in Coachman Park.

Together for 11 years and married for nearly seven, the Farrells have been homeless off and on since 2002.

Last week, the two migrated from St. Petersburg to Clearwater, hoping for a better situation.

"It's too rough down there," Farrell, 40, said of St. Petersburg. "It's safer in Clearwater. I just want to get a job that I can afford to provide for my wife like a man should."

Farrell spent three months at Pinellas Hope in an effort to get a job and pull his life together.

The outdoor shelter provides tents, meals and social services to the homeless. Those who stay there must actively seek and eventually find employment.

Counselors helped Farrell catch up on his $55-a-month probation payments. He said he's now off probation.

"I have nothing bad to say about them," Farrell said of Pinellas Hope officials. "They talked to my probation officer for me. If I had a job, they'd let me back in right away. They want to see us make progress."

At Monday's weekly meal provided by Thankfully Helping Others Real Needs Ministries, also known as THORN, the line of people waiting to be served snaked through the Myrtle Street parking lot. John Ustick of THORN said the group draws anywhere from 75 to 225 people a week.

Clearwater police Chief Sid Klein said the city has made a concerted effort to address the homeless situation since 1993. In 1996, those efforts crystallized into the Clearwater Homeless Intervention Project, more commonly known as CHIP.

Today, there are 67 beds in the shelter on Park Street, a day center operation that sees 80 to 100 people a day, and an apartment complex. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides a daily meal from 9 to 11 a.m. There's also a police substation on the property.

Klein said he thinks the city has a handle on the situation, though it is difficult to get a count of the number of homeless people in the area.

"But two issues that have to be resolved are the need for additional bed space and an identified continuous source of funding to sustain the programs," Klein said.

Jerry Boe, 41, lost his construction job about 4 1/2 months ago and has been homeless since. He said he is not a street person.

At Monday night's free meal in Clearwater, he said he was working to get into Pinellas Hope.

"They want you to work, and that will get me on my feet," he said. "It beats the streets."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com.

at a glance

Clearwater Homeless Intervention Project

1339 Park St.

Clearwater, FL 33756

(727) 466-6612

www.clearwaterpolice.org/chip/index.htm

Clearwater, home of nice beaches and jazz, deals with homeless issue 11/29/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 29, 2008 3:30am]

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