Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Cities should step up to fund Safe Harbor shelter

A consultant's report last week on an uptick in the number of homeless adults in downtown St. Petersburg and his call for more funding for the county's largest homeless shelter is a timely reminder that there remains a need for coordinated commitment across Pinellas County when it comes to battling homelessness.

St. Petersburg City Council member Karl Nurse summed up the situation well when he heard consultant Robert Marbut confirm that more homeless had returned to gathering in downtown parks three years after Safe Harbor, a shelter operated by Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, had helped make a marked improvement in the problem: "We almost had it solved and then we moved our attention elsewhere."

Safe Harbor, which houses more than 400 near Largo, was envisioned as a facility that all Pinellas cities would help support. The brainchild of the Sheriff's Office and then-St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, it immediately addressed two acute issues: the hundreds of homeless who had taken up residence in the county's largest downtown and a way for the sheriff to keep homeless people who committed minor crimes out of the overcrowded and more costly jail, thereby saving tax dollars.

St. Petersburg committed $100,000 a year and Foster lobbied other Pinellas cities to pitch in, since their homeless could go to Safe Harbor, too. Sixteen of the 24 cities contributed. But now, only six cities are helping and St. Petersburg's contribution has remained $100,000. Yet the shelter costs $2.4 million a year to operate. The sheriff is forced to provide $1.6 million of that amount and cannot afford to offer additional staff or programming that might improve future outcomes for residents once they leave Safe Harbor.

Among the casualties in the budget squeeze was a program heralded by Marbut as having had an impact in its short five months: an innovative homelessness diversion program that showed success in persuading some of the more incorrigible and chronic homeless to accept help in achieving a more stable lifestyle. Marbut thinks the city should find a way to help Gualtieri restore that program as well as help St. Vincent de Paul's, which runs a shelter downtown, to provide 24-hour programming for the homeless. He also urged the city to remain committed to serving families, whose needs can be far different than those of chronically homeless adults.

There can be a tendency to write off homelessness as a St. Petersburg problem due to its high visibility, but when asked on intake where they spent the previous night, 60 percent of Safe Harbor residents say mid or North Pinellas, Gualtieri says.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has committed to increase his city's share of funding to Safe Harbor, but other cities need to step up too with money and ideas. It will take countywide effort to address this challenge in a meaningful way. If the number of homeless is growing in St. Petersburg, it will soon grow elsewhere, too.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18