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Shelter task force rejects former halfway house site

A former halfway house near N Fort Harrison Avenue is no longer under consideration by a task force trying to find a location for a homeless shelter.

The task force, meeting Tuesday, dropped the idea of opening a shelter at 504 Seminole St. after hearing a litany of structural problems with the building. Objections by residents and business owners also helped halt the discussion.

"Oh, hallelujah," said Dr. Debra Thomas-Weible, secretary-treasurer of the North Fort Harrison Business District. "Whatever their reason for backing out, I'm glad they did."

City building inspectors said the Seminole Street building, a former home for recovering alcoholics, was in sad shape, said City Commissioner Art Deegan, the task force chairman. The roof, floors, walls, windows, heating and air conditioning systems and electrical system all needed repairs, Deegan said. The building also contained asbestos, Deegan said, making any repairs difficult and probably expensive.

Attention turned to another location: the former Salvation Army thrift store at 900 Pierce St. The building has about 4,600 square feet of space and would cost about $172,500, task force members said. It is near social service agencies, including the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, where many homeless people eat free daily meals.

And perhaps most importantly, it's not in a residential or highly visible retail area, Deegan said.

The task force is made up mostly of law enforcement officials and social service providers from cities around north Pinellas County.

The group has operated a temporary shelter in downtown Clearwater for the past two months, but it is trying to find a more permanent home to take people otherwise stuck on the streets.

The temporary shelter, which can accommodate 35 people, has filled every night, officials said.

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