Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Worries about arrests put homeless census on hold

TAMPA — As counties statewide prepare for their annual homeless count, Hillsborough will wait another month.

Too cold? Too many transients?

Actually, homeless advocates fear police will arrest so many homeless to clear the streets for the Super Bowl that any count would be inaccurate.

"It's happened during other big events when there are a lot of out-of-town visitors," said Rayme Nuckles, chief executive officer of the county's Homeless Coalition. "But we know it's occurring now because some of our providers heard from a (police) captain at a meeting that they were arresting homeless people and holding them in jail."

Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said there is no such mandate.

"Our primary mission is the safety of our visitors," she said. "So the homeless wouldn't rank high on that. We arrest people for breaking the law, not for being homeless."

But Nuckles said the plan to aggressively jail homeless people on charges such as loitering and trespassing "came straight from a captain's mouth" at a meeting. He was not at the meeting, he said, but heard about it from others, including Sara Romeo, executive director of Tampa Crossroads, a homeless advocacy group.

"There was a lot of discussion," he said. "People were appalled."

Romeo, a former state representative, would not comment on the meeting but said she knows police are conducting homeless sweeps right now.

"I'm sure homelessness hurts the image of every city that has a Super Bowl," she said. "But if we addressed this issue the other 364 days prior to Super Bowl, we wouldn't have so many homeless people to round up and hide."

The head of Pinellas County's homeless coalition said many homeless Tampa people recently have migrated to Pinellas to stay out of jail.

But "they're doing sweeps here, too," said executive director Sarah Snyder.

Like other Florida counties, Pinellas is conducting its annual homeless census beginning Monday.

It's a process involving hundreds of volunteers who count and survey homeless people throughout the county. They ask each homeless person if he or she was homeless on a specific day — in this case, Jan. 25. Using the total for that day, they project the number of homeless in a year.

The coalitions submit the numbers to the federal government at least every two years to get funding.

Hillsborough's homeless coalition asked for special permission to delay its count because of the Super Bowl.

But the director of the state's Office on Homelessness, Tom Pierce, doubted the request had anything to do with arrests.

Rather, he said, it was because cheap hotels kick locals out to raise prices for Super Bowl guests, thus skewing the homeless count.

He said he knew nothing of police sweeps.

Tampa spokeswoman Liana Lopez said Mayor Pam Iorio was not available Friday and referred questions to police.

"A lot of public officials won't talk about it," said Nuckles. "But we know it's going on."

Emily Nipps can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8452.

Worries about arrests put homeless census on hold 01/23/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 12:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate

    Corporate

    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers

    Crime

    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)

    War

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.