Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Clearwater officials crack down on public amenities used by homeless

CLEARWATER — The crackdown has begun on public "enablers" as the city closes restrooms and cuts power in public parks frequented by the homeless.

Crews on Monday welded the restrooms shut at Crest Lake Park after hearing reports that the homeless used them at night for drug use, sleeping and prostitution.

In Station Square Park, the downtown courtyard next to the $50 million Station Square condo tower, officials asked for removal of a hose that the homeless were using for water.

And power outlets at Coachman Park and Station Square Park have been turned off because homeless people were using them to charge cellphones.

In an email last month, City Manager Bill Horne called cutting electricity in public spaces a priority. Station Square Park, he wrote, was "a real attraction for our street homeless."

Slashing urban amenities is the city's latest step in making it tougher to live on the street. The city's homelessness consultant, Robert Marbut, said street survival guides and "renegade" food giveaways only served to discourage the homeless from seeking real help.

The city's new homeless initiative pushes for more engagement in services such as job training at facilities such as Safe Harbor, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's homeless shelter next to the jail.

Some of the city's tough-love policies have already met with resistance. Earlier this year, Horne and Marbut called for discouraging donations to the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen. That idea was shelved after public backlash.

Last month city employees took pictures of three men they saw charging cellphones at Station Square Park. Officials are also keeping a spreadsheet tracking homeless sightings and residents' complaints.

One sighting mentions homeless people living in a boarded-up funeral home after sneaking in through air-conditioning vents. Another mentions "a young couple watching movies at the door of" the Clearwater Homeless Intervention Project, the shelter and day center that closed last year after the city ended its funding.

Since October, the city has spent $175,000 on social services for the poor and the homeless, less than half of what the city spent the previous year, city records show.

Four years ago, the city spent nearly five times that amount — more than $800,000, including half a million dollars to the Homeless Emergency Project.

Shannon O'Leary-Beck, who has visited Crest Lake Park for 16 years, said she worries that the six locked restrooms next to a playground will prompt some people to relieve themselves elsewhere in the park.

She also wondered what the locked restrooms will mean for park events, including a benefit this month for Melissa Dohme, the young woman police say was brutally attacked by an ex-boyfriend outside her nearby home.

"There really isn't a homeless problem at that park. It's the same guys every day. We know a lot of them by name," O'Leary-Beck said. "The whole thing is just mind-boggling. … This is not going to solve the problem."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or [email protected] Send letters to the editor to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

HOUSTON — Energy.That's what Kevin Kiermaier said he felt he'd provide most in rejoining the Rays Tuesday against the Astros after missing two-plus months recovering from thumb surgery."I like to think I bring energy on both sides of the ball, ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

HOUSTON — The starting pitcher walked seven over seven otherwise solid innings Tuesday. That seemed weird enough for the Rays. Then the next pitcher they brought in was the one who started Monday's game. Even more bizarre.And then there was thi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
As Tesla races to meet Model 3 deadline, factory pressures and suspicions grow

As Tesla races to meet Model 3 deadline, factory pressures and suspicions grow

Tesla chief Elon Musk said last week that the company’s layoffs of 9 percent of its workforce wouldn’t affect production as the all-electric automaker races to build thousands of new Model 3 sedans a week.But documents the company filed days later wi...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Victor Hedman is talking from a hotel room in Las Vegas and admits he's a little jet-lagged."Actually, very jet-lagged," Hedman says.That's what happens when you take a flight from Sweden to the party capital of the world.But he knows exactly what he...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Updated: 6 hours ago
New Port Richey man faces sexual battery charge

New Port Richey man faces sexual battery charge

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 33-year-old man was arrested Monday on a charge of sexual battery, accused of assaulting a 10-year-old girl.Jonathan Wells was booked into the Pasco County jail, where he was being held Tuesday without bail.The assault took place ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

House bill would detain families — togetherThe Republican House compromise bill on immigration would end the family separation issue at the border — but Democrats won’t support it. The bill mandates that the Department of Homeland Security hold any a...
Updated: 7 hours ago

WashingtonSenate approves $716B for 2019 military budgetThe U.S. Senate on Monday voted to give the military $716 billion for 2019, approving one of the biggest defense budgets in modern American history despite concerns from some economists and lawm...
Updated: 7 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

UPDATE, 6:45: Cash said Smith will continue to play a lot, getting time in LF and RF, meaning something of a rotation system for rookie Johnny Field and veteran Carlos Gomez.UPDATE, 4:49: Kiermaier is batting leadoff and playing center as expected, w...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Updated: 8 hours ago