Saturday, November 18, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Programs that serve homeless can turn around lives

RECOMMENDED READING


Each new story of homelessness in Pinellas County makes it clearer that a complex problem that worsened in the recession has not dissipated and requires more resources and creativity to address. Collaboration by law enforcement, social service agencies and Pinellas' 25 local governments is essential to finding, funding and implementing solutions to this vexing countywide problem. And a good place to start is by better supporting programs that have proven successes.

Three Pinellas programs provide examples of how diverse approaches are needed to reach different segments of the homeless population.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri deals with perhaps the county's most difficult segment of homeless: Single adults who have broken the law and are often drunk or high when they are picked up by authorities across the county. Those who have broken minor laws such as a city ordinance are given the option of avoiding jail by going to Safe Harbor, a bare-bones shelter near Largo that opened in January 2011.

While staying at Safe Harbor, residents must do chores, participate in classes and case management, and abide by other rules. Eventually, some hard-core homeless started choosing jail instead, where their care costs taxpayers much more.

So officials thought of a way to encourage them to choose the shelter and its programs. Rather than putting them in the general jail population, where they could socialize, watch TV all day and move freely about a pod, Gualtieri put them in a jail wing with individual cells, no TV and no visitation. Each day a case manager or counselor came to ask if they were ready to go to Safe Harbor. Within days, Gualtieri said, most were ready. Of the 198 individuals who went through that diversion program in five months, only 40 ultimately chose jail.

Though the program worked, it was discontinued at five months because of budget cuts by the sheriff, who is unfairly shouldering $1.6 million of the $2.4 million it costs annually to run the shelter. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has raised the Safe Harbor contribution from $100,000 to $150,000 in his proposed 2015 budget and promises to lobby other Pinellas cities to give more too.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society in St. Petersburg has a broad array of services, serving 600 meals a day, operating a transitional housing program with case management, and running a day program for the homeless and a night shelter. But funding is always tight. Kriseman helped by adding $75,000 to his proposed budget so St. Vincent can keep its day program open longer.

But if Safe Harbor and St. Vincent de Paul include short-term solutions to acute homelessness, other programs, such as the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater, primarily support long-term transitions into stability. Since 1986, the charity — which recently received Charity Navigator's coveted four-star status for its fiscal management and transparency — has graduated many homeless individuals and families to more productive lives.

On its five-block campus, HEP provides housing, meals, intensive counseling and occupational opportunities, with the goal of being the last homeless shelter anyone needs. It serves the homeless or very low-income individuals, families, children and veterans, including wounded warriors.

These three successful programs aren't the only ones making a difference in Pinellas County. But they are a testament to the different approaches necessary to address the vast diversity of homeless individuals. And all three rely on collaborative partners and funding to do their work. That's how Pinellas can best address homelessness, working together.

Comments

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17