So, of all of the wacky and embarrassing topics that come from Florida, few have become a steady source of concern for the nation as homelessness in St. Petersburg, Florida. Once known as the “meanest city” (now known as the saddest city *sigh*), the city’s treatment of its homeless population stays under a bit of a microscope regarding homeless issues. So, here’s the latest–the St. Petersburg City Council has passed an interlocal agreement to form a Homeless Leadership Board in Pinellas County, which will consolidate the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Leadership Network into this one new entity.
Here’s the link to the full story as posted on SaintPetersBlog: http://saintpetersblog.com/2012/01/st-pete-city-council-approves-interlocal-agreement-with-newly-formed-homeless-leadership-board/
For many years now, St. Petersburg has benefitted from two homeless initiative leadership organizations in Pinellas County. One is the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless, comprised of critical homeless service providers throughout the county along with many concerned citizens, volunteers and other professionals. The other entity is the Homeless Leadership Network, which included elected officials from Pinellas County and its cities along with key service provider representatives. The proposed Homeless Leadership Board will essentially merge the responsibilities of these two entities into one.
Officially, the reasons for this merger as provided by City Manager of Veteran, Homeless and Social Services Rhonda Abbot is, “to streamline leadership and make it more effective, efficient and accountable; and to focus its efforts on making the homeless services system more effective and performance-driven in moving individuals and families from homelessness to permanent housing.”
What this really translates to are two individual points. First, the responsibilities and missions of the two entities are similar from a broad perspective, which has been a source of confusion for the public. Having one entity responsible for everything will end this confusion. Second, and most importantly, is that it truly will streamline leadership, communication and increase efficiency to more effectively achieve the end goal of moving individuals and families from homelessness to permanent housing.
Full disclosure: As the author of this article, I think it’s important to mention that I am a former board member of the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless, and I served as Co-Chair of its Communications Committee.
I noticed a search query that resulted in a visit to this page, and it was, “why so many homeless in St. Petersburg.” The simplest answer is a tough economy and job market is causing more newly homeless persons and families in St. Petersburg and across the nation. Many homeless persons chose to come to St. Petersburg because of the notoriously mild climate and the notoriety Pinellas County has for its homeless services. In particular, among homeless populations, St. Petersburg had a reputation of never having any hungry homeless persons do to the many generous people, organizations and service programs in the city.
Yet, the city has undergone many changes, helping to streamline all homeless services throughout not only the City of St. Petersburg but all of Pinellas County. Two of the most prominent of these programs are Pinellas Hope and Safe Harbor.
Additionally, great strides have been made in the city regarding affordable housing through collaborations with the city, funding entities and partner social service organizations. The city and all of Pinellas County take the issue of homelessness very seriously and work together to continuously work to meet needs and address homelessness. Specifically, the St. Petersburg City Council has identified the increasing statistic of homeless families as a top priority to develop programs to rapidly rehouse these families and provide supportive services and amplify homeless prevention services to try to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place.
For more information about homeless issues in Pinellas County, please visit this website: http://www.pinellashomeless.org/