OLDSMAR — St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster is asking cities across Pinellas County to become a financial partner in supporting a new homeless shelter scheduled to open today.
The Oldsmar City Council is considering a request to chip in $25,000 to help with the facility, being spearheaded by Foster and Sheriff Jim Coats.
"Twenty-five thousand dollars is probably a high number for us," City Manager Bruce Haddock said when asked for his input at Tuesday night's council meeting. "As part of the Pinellas community, I think it would be a good idea to provide some financial support."
He floated an alternative: $5,000.
Dubbed Pinellas Safe Harbor, the facility is utilizing a jail annex at 14840 49th St. N in Largo.
It is designed to eventually serve up to 500, particularly those with substance abuse and mental health problems. It is touted as a lower cost alternative to sending those who are drunk or trespassing to jail.
An estimated 24,000 homeless people roam the streets in the bay area.
St. Petersburg, which is dealing with a large homeless population, is committing to $100,000 in financial support along with several in-kind services. Clearwater, Pinellas Park and Largo have pledged to help fund the shelter as well.
Pinellas County commissioners agreed to pay for $210,000 in utility bills, but that was already in the jail's budget for 2011.
Grants for habitual offenders, prisoners re-entering society, and those with mental health issues will provide most of the shelter's $1.8 million annual cost.
In the end, Oldsmar council members decided they wanted to hear more from a representative about the program's costs and focus.
"Let's (get) the numbers and see what they are before we make a commitment," said Mayor Jim Ronecker.
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