Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Nonprofit eyes vacant St. Petersburg school for homeless teen shelter

ST. PETERSBURG — A Tampa nonprofit that works with homeless teens want to open a "minicampus" in north St. Petersburg, complete with boys and girls dormitories, a dining hall, offices and tutoring space.

But the City Council, led by member Darden Rice, has put the brakes on the group's plan to lease an unused school building at 4600 Haines Road. Rice said the last-minute addition of a zoning change for the property on Thursday's meeting agenda took her by surprise.

She wants more time to learn about the nonprofit, called Starting Right, Now and consult residents in her district. She asked to defer a vote until Aug. 21.

"It's unfortunate that it was rushed. … It puts us in an awkward position of it appearing like it's a NIMBY issue," Rice said.

Rice has some questions about the nonprofit, formed in 2008. A Tampa Bay Times story last year detailed how the group sued two former homeless teenagers for thousands of dollars in costs after they left the program. After the stories, the group amended its policy to collect no more than $2,000 from teens who leave.

Rice said the practice was a "head-scratcher," but didn't consider it a "fatal flaw."

"I'd be curious to find out what's happened since that time," she said.

Founder Vicki Sokolik said her organization only sued two participants after exhausting every other avenue of redress. She said her group broached the subject of a local campus with Pinellas County School District officials, who didn't raise objections.

"It was really a nonissue," Sokolik said.

The nonprofit wants to turn the old Harris TIPS school into same-sex dormitories that would house 50 teens. That's about double the housing provided to teens in Hillsborough County, she said.

There are about 135 young people in the program there, she said, who work with mentors daily. Not all of them are homeless, some are runaways or have left home for other reasons.

The program also offers tutoring and other wrap-around services. She said 95 percent of participants graduate from high school.

Board members include such local dignitaries as Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tampa Bay Rays president Matt Silverman.

"We've been asked by several people to take it across the state," Sokolik said.

The proposed facility would have a full-time house manager who would sleep on site. Security would be present when the manager is off-duty, Sokolik said.

Sokolik plans to explain the benefits of the program to council members on Aug. 21. She wasn't surprised the council wanted more information.

"I'm not sure council had time to digest who we are or what we're doing," she said.

School district officials see the potential for a "beautiful partnership," said Lori Matway, associate superintendent for student and community services.

Pinellas County has about 3,000 homeless youth, she said, and a boarded-up school doesn't benefit anyone. The district closed the school for teen parents in 2011 to save money.

The district would like to lease the property, just less than 6 acres, to the nonprofit for a nominal sum with a clause that it could take it back if needed.

The council first must approve its rezoning from school to residential, Matway said.

"There is definitely a need," she said. " Our hope is that all children have a safe place to go home to with caring adults. It's a small chip, but every little bit helps."

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago

Comments
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.The Bucs won't ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

TAMPA — John Reisinger has seen miracles since his niece and 21-month-old grand-niece were killed while trying to cross Bayshore Boulevard 30 days ago. Some, he says, are too painful to talk about. Others he’s still trying to make sense of, such as h...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

ST. PETERSBURG — The key to SS Willy Adames rapping two of the biggest hits in the Rays' 4-0 win Saturday actually took place the night before.An RBI single that snapped an 0-for-12 and a second hit two winnings later in Friday's game restored ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

INF Daniel Robertson has only played two games after a short DL stint, but it seems like he has already made a half dozen great plays. Willy Adames and Jake Bauers get the attention, but Robertson has the skills to steal the show any night.It is obvi...
Updated: 2 hours ago