Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg's law-breaking homeless people will soon get a choice: Jail or a shelter

PITCHING IN: Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Alstott sets up one of 45 camping tents Friday at Pinellas Hope. Alstott’s foundation donated the tents to Pinellas Hope after Alstott heard media reports about the camp losing 150 tents during recent storms. “Anything we can do to help people meet their full potential, that’s what our foundation is all about. This helps people get back on their feet,” said Alstott. “It’s about community coming together. When we see a situation like this in the news, that’s when we act.”

SCOTT KEELER | Times

PITCHING IN: Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Alstott sets up one of 45 camping tents Friday at Pinellas Hope. Alstott’s foundation donated the tents to Pinellas Hope after Alstott heard media reports about the camp losing 150 tents during recent storms. “Anything we can do to help people meet their full potential, that’s what our foundation is all about. This helps people get back on their feet,” said Alstott. “It’s about community coming together. When we see a situation like this in the news, that’s when we act.”

St. Petersburg police will soon start offering homeless people accused of minor crimes the option of going to the county's homeless shelter instead of jail.

Sheriff's officials learned Friday that a $500,000 federal grant to pay for the diversion program had been approved.

The intent is to shift homeless people accused of crimes like drunkenness and trespass to Pinellas Safe Harbor instead of the jail, where costs are higher.

Starting Monday or Tuesday, St. Petersburg police will be able to bring 10 people shelter, said Chief Deputy Sheriff Robert Gualtieri. The program would eventually expand to other cities like Clearwater.

"We're going to do it very carefully and very thoughtfully and try it on for size," said Rhonda Abbott, St. Petersburg's homeless services director.

The program had been planned to started soon after the shelter's January opening, but was delayed as officials worked to secure grant funding.

A team of police officers in downtown St. Petersburg will offer the option to homeless people they find committing minor crimes. If they accept, they would be given a notice to appear in court but not booked into the jail.

The shelter would provide case managers to help improve their lives, and their cases would be dismissed if they meet obligations like community service and counseling.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster told Gualtieri that, for now, the city won't enforce its ban on sidewalk sleeping, Gualtieri said.

Gualtieri said the decision wasn't urged by the Sheriff's Office, which has recoiled at cities sending homeless, minor offenders to the jail repeatedly. "That's a policy decision for the city," he said.

Foster did not return calls seeking comment. Abbott confirmed Gualtieri's account.

St. Petersburg's ban on public sleeping has been derided by some advocates for the homeless and challenged by public defenders. Courts have ruled that the city can enforce its law only if enough shelter beds are available.

"Eventually we do believe we will have capacity," Abbott said.

The new shelter funding comes as a major homeless shelter announces its plans to close May 15. The Clearwater Homeless Intervention Project said its 85 residents will have to find shelter elsewhere because of funding cuts.

Safe Harbor, which has a typical population of 300 or more, has room for 500. Its expansion will be added by a shipment of 100 bunks the sheriff ordered from an Alabama jail. The office paid $20 apiece for the used bunks, which inmates will repaint.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/decamptimes.

St. Petersburg's law-breaking homeless people will soon get a choice: Jail or a shelter 04/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 9:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Observations from a liberal, gay, Latino, feminist Florida House freshman

    Blogs

    State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando,  rocked the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus dinner at Tallahassee's Hotel Duval Satursday night with his unabashedly liberal and passionate take on the myriad issues he said are key to LGBTQ Floridians. Among them: Access to guns, Reproductive rights, home …

    Carlos G. Smith
  2. Delta Sigma Theta honors outgoing national president

    Human Interest

    During her four years as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Paulette Walker said she always focused on the comma between "Sorority" and "Inc."

    Paulette Walker, the former director of undergraduate programs and internship in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, will be honored on Saturday for her leadership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  3. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  4. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion

    Fire

    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  5. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.