In the final days of a tough primary campaign for the Pinellas congressional seat, state Rep. Kathleen Peters is debuting a series of provocative ads meant to raise awareness about Florida's homeless population.
The ads, the result of a collaboration among Peters, Pinellas County's Homeless Leadership Board, and undergraduates at the Art Institute of Tampa, display calming pictures of beach sunsets and golf courses familiar to anyone who's ever seen a commercial for a Florida vacation package. Then comes the wording, and a bold reminder that all is not perfect in the Sunshine State.
"Florida has more golf courses than any other state and over 2,100 homeless seniors 60+" reads one of the public service announcements.
Says another: "Florida has more than 370,000 hotel rooms and just over 38,000 beds for the homeless."
The state's homeless population totals 93,000, according to one ad. Other highlighted facts include Florida's number of homeless veterans (4,900) and the reality that many of its indigent are families with children.
Peters' aide Eired Jackson said the PSAs are intended to make Floridians think differently about their state's homeless population. Each ad ends with the phrase "Who Knew?" and a direction to the viewer to visit aTrueFace.org, where more of the students' work is posted.
"Basically, they're not looking for money, they're just looking for people to become aware and to change behaviors," she said, adding that she hopes the campaign will encourage people to donate food or money to homeless shelters rather than feeding people in parks or giving them spare change.
Pinellas County's largest homeless shelter, Safe Harbor, opened in 2011 and has been widely praised for keeping several hundred people off of the streets each night. But its funding has remained a constant source of tension. Most of the shelter's funding comes from the Sheriff's Office, which has called on cities in Pinellas, many of which send homeless people to Safe Harbor, to contribute more. Donations from private citizens are few and far between.
The ads won't appear on billboards or TV until early spring, when they are expected to run on donated space and airtime, Jackson said. Until then, Peters' office plans to promote them on social media.
Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.