Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Conversation with St. Pete City Council Member Amy Foster about the Homeless Part 3

The Homeless problem in Pinellas County continues to grow. If you would like to look at the Pinellas County Health and Community Services web site and look at the most recent surveys and reports.
numbers you can go the

The City of St. Petersburg has been at the forefront of the homeless crisis. City Council Member Amy Foster is taking a lead role in developing approaches and solutions for the homeless community.

My Conversation with Council Member Foster Continues.

My questions are in bold.

"What would you like to see St. Petersburg and the Kriseman Administration do too support the homeless problem," I asked?

"I will say I am really proud of the Administration getting behind a lot of the issues we have here." "There was no push back about bringing back the consultant and understanding where we have seen an uptick and what we need to do." "For example, I asked what it would take to keep folks out of Unity Park and off the street every day-and we budgeted to provide the financial support so that St. Vincent DePaul can be a 24 hour seven day a week program."

"You see is a lot of people around Unity Park in the morning and that's because they are kicked out of the shelter." "Those folks actually don't want to go to Williams Park and deal with the criminal issues happening there." "They are just waiting for the shelter to open back up at 11:00 AM in the morning."

"One of the things we are doing with the day program is that there is a counselor there so they check their e-mail or anything else they need." "They have to agree to accept services which will help
provide them a path out of homeliness." "Not just free feeding, they are trying to actually provide the homeless a path out of homelessness. I’m proud we were able to add funding in this area."

"The other thing you will see in the next budget that I am really excited about is one of the barriers that we have found is the homeless families are pulling on the Homeless Outreach Team in Williams Park and they are not able to address the issues with loitering and other things."

"JWB (Juvenile Welfare Board), 211 Tampa Bay, and Directions for Living have stepped up to the plate to help address our chronically homeless families. Nine additional staff were added in the last year to make sure families aren’t sitting on hold forever and they're not just given a list of shelters to call-these staff are providing navigation services and working to understand families who continue to present into the system over and over again."

Do you see the child part of this becoming growing issue?"

"Well I certainly think that it is one of the problems that we have to focus on which kind of goes to the question of a long term solution to work with realtors, landlords, and others on affordable and flexible housing options. We already know a lot of the people that are homeless are really working class poor people living in a motel. Some of them choose to live there b/c it keeps them close to the criminal activities they participate in but some of them could live in other areas if they could find some folks that were willing to overlook some previous criminal history from long ago and landlords who are willing to work on that first, last and current month's payment in order to get into housing.

Many of the motels are charging $800 per month and so if we can work on building more affordable and flexible housing, then we would see less homelessness with families, because it really is an issue of being able to afford and qualify getting into the housing. At $800 a month or more, people will never be able to afford an apartment and it keeps them trapped. Families with multiple children need way more than a one room motel room."

Next, in the final Post of this series, Council member Foster talks about the role of the new Police Chief, Tony Holloway, and has some final thoughts on a long term homeless solution.

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