ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to adopt new policies to ensure homeless families are no longer sent to subpar motels.
The city will no longer pay for families to stay at places like the Mosley Motel when there is not enough shelter space, a practice that has been going on for years.
Instead, St. Petersburg will now follow the same standards as the county's Juvenile Welfare Board, which puts a preference on shelters that offer other social services and only sends people to hotels it has inspected and approved.
"Just because (people are) poor, they should not have to live in garbage," council member Steve Kornell said. "We have to do better. We have to do right. It's just simple."
The change was prompted by council member Amy Foster, who brought the issue to light last week in the Tampa Bay Times after she learned that the city was putting three to five families a month at the Mosley, which has attracted numerous code and nuisance violations over the years; it also is home to several registered sex offenders.
"When council member Foster brought this up, we stopped," said Cliff Smith, the city's manager of veterans, social and homeless services. "We totally agree with this. It's just not a good environment."
Several organizations have reached out to help since then, Foster said Thursday, including All Children's Hospital and Faith House. She also said the city could consider using Jamestown apartments for the families when there are no other alternatives.
In other news, the council also decided to explore council member Karl Nurse's idea of incorporating a skate park into plans for a new pier.
About 60 people packed City Hall to ask the city to put one at downtown's Spa Beach Park.
Most council members appeared to support such a proposal, at least in general, though Charlie Gerdes said he was not convinced the park couldn't go elsewhere in the city. The group will talk about it in more detail at an upcoming workshop.
Officials from the Mahaffey Theater also appeared before the council on Thursday, and said more than 126,000 people visited the theater as of April 30. They think they will hit 200,000 by the end of the year, which would exceed attendance goals.
"We're really riding a wave of momentum," said manager Joe Santiago, who also used the appearance to break the news that comedians Mike Epps, Jo Koy and Michael Che will do a show at the theater Aug. 22. More details are expected to be released next week.
Council members praised Bill Edwards, whose company took over management of the theater in 2011, for his work to improve the theater. They then approved a $331,900 contract for dressing room renovations.