Thursday, June 21, 2018
Editorials

Give Zephyrhills homeless shelter a chance to address neighborhood concerns

A Pasco advisory committee's answer to homelessness is an eviction notice. That unreasonable recommendation from a Pasco Planning Commission majority came four days ago when the citizens' panel voted down a permit for a Zephyrhills area shelter. The advisory ruling, which will be considered by the elected county commission next month, contradicted county staffers who recommended a one-year grace period for the shelter to find a new location.

Pushing the occupants out of the shelter and back into the woods is hardly an answer to homelessness, particularly since the Chancey Road Christian Church provides the only shelter on the east side of the county.

The church site started as a county-authorized cold-weather shelter two years ago and, last summer, began allowing homeless people to spend the night regardless of the outside temperatures. In December, it applied for county permission to operate a 130-bed shelter on its 4.5 acres, then scaled back its plans. Now, it wants to run a 50-bed transitional housing program in which participants can stay up to 12 months if they agree to regular drug testing, seek employment and/or high school equivalency diplomas and meet other requirements. The church said its current shelter census is 26 people and the most people its served at one time is 42.

The shelter installed a fence to buffer neighbors, stepped up drug testing, does not accept sexual offenders or people who have recently committed felony crimes, and most importantly, does not allow clients to loiter near the property during the daylight hours. Instead, the shelter provides daily transportation to and from Career Central, the one-stop job placement and employment training center six miles away in the city of Zephyrhills.

Most of those changes began last month in response to neighbors' concerns, but the safeguards did little to placate nearby residents who told the Planning Commission of past encounters with the homeless, criminal behavior, fears for their own personal safety and concerns about the potential for lower property values.

The testimony and Planning Commission debate, however, paid little heed to equally troubling information: A count 14 months ago put the county's homeless population at 4,400 on any given day, including 1,600 people (up from 617 two years earlier) considered chronically homeless because they had been on the street for at least a year.

The church should be commended for expanding its mission to help meet the needs of the homeless population. It also is making a good-faith attempt to address neighborhood concerns with new operating procedures that — if the Planning Commission recommendation stands — won't be given suitable time to determine their effectiveness.

The volunteer Planning Commission, appointed by county commissioners, offers advice on land-use matters only. It's a good thing because the 5-4 vote to deny the staff-recommended one-year permit and subsequent 6-3 vote to effectively evict the shelter from the neighborhood is indicative of a narrow focus that fails to consider any sense of humanitarianism or holistic response to homelessness.

County commissioners should take a broader view when they consider the shelter's permit application next month.

Comments
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18