Pinellas Hope is not going to end homelessness, but it is putting some families back on their feet and is precisely the kind of community-based effort that deserves the continued support of county government.
The tent city, which was opened by Catholic Charities last December, is intended to cut down on the number of people who live in the streets and redirect them into permanent housing. Those who stay there are provided a safe haven and warm meal but also are put into contact with available community services as a step toward self-sufficiency.
Of the 484 people Pinellas Hope served over the first five months, 122 found jobs and another 148 found homes. One man, who had lived under a highway overpass, discovered he was eligible for Social Security benefits and now has an apartment.
The operation has survived on a combination of private charity, business donations and local government support. But it will need a more sustained commitment from local government if it is to endure. In this difficult budget environment, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker has found a way to invest another $295,000. Unfortunately, county government has not been so forthcoming.
County Commissioner Ken Welch has suggested a reasonable financial approach. Commissioners could restructure the $30-million trust fund for affordable housing to free up roughly $1-million for Pinellas Hope. Given the link between homelessness and affordable housing, Welch's idea is a credible one. Unless fellow commissioners are willing to turn more people back on the streets, they ought to support it.