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Getting into Pinellas Hope gives couple chance to exhale

Due to asthma, Pam Feagley, 50, has trouble blowing into a Breathalyzer during intake at Pinellas Hope. She couldn’t blow long enough to pass, but she and her husband, Randy, were still accepted.


Due to asthma, Pam Feagley, 50, has trouble blowing into a Breathalyzer during intake at Pinellas Hope. She couldn’t blow long enough to pass, but she and her husband, Randy, were still accepted.

On a cool spring morning, Randy and Pam Feagley, 47 and 50, wait nervously outside St. Petersburg's City Hall for a chance to get into Pinellas Hope.

Catholic Charities admits some residents in emergencies, but most arrive on Thursdays, intake day. Three law enforcement officers, each paired with a social worker, gather homeless people from around the county based on how many slots are open that week.

The Feagleys, without income since Randy lost a construction job, have been sleeping under bushes at Crescent Lake. They didn't make the cut last week, but St. Petersburg police Officer Richard Linkewicz scribbled a note that gave them priority in the future.

On this morning, six people show up for four slots. Only the Feagleys produce a priority note.

Randy pumps his fist. They're in.

Before they board Pinellas Hope's converted school bus, Linkewicz explains the cardinal rule: No alcohol, no drugs. Try to bluff your way in and you may never get another chance.

"If you have any painkillers in your system, you better have a prescription,'' Linkewicz says. "There's no such thing as medical marijuana here. This is not California.''

The Feagleys are herded into a large tent for processing. Urine cups and a portable Breathalyzer measure sobriety.

Pam has asthma. She puckers around the Breathalyzer tube and blows — one second, two seconds — then inhales.

That won't do, social worker Ryne Laxton tells her. The machine needs seven seconds of continuous breath.

Over and over she tries, but 7 seconds might as well be 40. Her face reddens with anxiety and Randy reiterates an old grievance: "If you would stop smoking, you could do it.''

After six earnest failures, an exception is made and she is admitted.

Getting into Pinellas Hope gives couple chance to exhale 07/23/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 26, 2010 8:56am]
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