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Pinellas Village, at last

The "birth" of Pinellas Village last week was preceded by a long and painful labor. The people who believed in its mission were stubborn enough to fight every roadblock thrown in their path during the past six years.

Modeled after a successful program in Colorado, Pinellas Village will provide housing, counseling, education, child care and job training to single-parent families. Most of those families will be headed by women who dropped out of school or never received the sort of training that would allow them to earn enough to support families.

Such programs are desperately needed, but that didn't stop some residents of two communities from using every flimsy and sometimes offensive excuse at their disposal to fight construction of the complex.

Originally proposed for a site in Pinellas Park, Pinellas Village was booted out of that city by a weak-kneed majority on the City Council after insistent residents claimed the village would become a "slum property" and "a breeding place . . . for problem children," with "unsavory male characters" hanging around and "curtains hanging out of windows."

The developer later received county approval to build Pinellas Village on a site near Seminole in unincorporated Pinellas County. But residents of a nearby subdivision, Seminole Lake Country Club Estates, sued to block construction.

Eventually Pinellas County reached a settlement with the neighborhood so the complex could be built. A shameful chapter in the county's history ended with the county having to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees and the developer reducing the size and scope of the project.

But the difficulties of the past weren't evident Tuesday when Pinellas Village opened with a public dedication ceremony. About 400 families have filled out applications to live there. After screening, 45 families have signed leases. In all, 72 families will be housed in the village. They are expected to begin moving in later this month.

The single parents who live in Pinellas Village won't live on easy street. They must commit to improving their education and job skills. In addition, they must continue with the difficult job of raising their children and managing their households alone.

People who live near Pinellas Village could do nothing more caring than to open their arms to the new residents of the village. Pinellas Village will be populated by people who want to improve their lot in life, who are resisting homelessness or life on the public dole, who want to give their children more promising futures.

That's a mission we should all be eager to support.

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