Kriseman administration renews efforts to deal with St. Pete’s homeless

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St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has renewed efforts to tackle one of the St. Petersburg’s biggest problems — homelessness.

Beginning with an in-depth analysis of the issue, the mayor has spearheaded a new program to help homeless citizens stay off the streets and obtain city services.

According to the 2013 Pinellas County Point-in-Time count, issued by the Homeless Leadership Board, there are as many as 7,000 residents countywide living on the streets on any given night.

To get a grasp of the scope of the problem, Kriseman invited Dr. Robert Marbut, a nationally recognized homeless expert, to return to St. Petersburg. Marbut is no stranger to St. Petersburg, having initially addressed the issue in November 2011 with a “Strategic Action Plan to Reduce Homelessness.”

Marbut is a former San Antonio, Texas City Councilperson/Mayor-Pro-Tem, as well as the President/CEO of Marbut Consulting, and is someone who has more than three decades of experience in homeless issues.

Marbut’s input led to the development of Pinellas Safe Harbor, located in Clearwater, as a “transformational housing” for the homeless. In less than three months after opening, Pinellas Safe Harbor became the county’s largest residential facility. After five months, it grew into the second largest “courtyard” type facility in the U.S.

In February, Kriseman asked Marbut to conduct an updated appraisal of the city’s progress and assess the current homeless situation in St. Petersburg. The study would be followed by recommendations on additional steps the city can take with service providers such as non-profit, faith-based and government agencies, as well as volunteers, homeless individuals and families.

Following the research, which took place March-April, Marbut will submit a written report of his findings and recommendations to Kriseman and the City Council, expected by June 1.

In addition to an in-depth report on St. Pete’s homeless, on April 1, Kriseman opened a Day Services Program, a partnership between the City of St. Petersburg and St. Vincent de Paul South Pinellas. The new homeless Program will be at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Center, located at 401 15 Street N. Day Services will provide an indoor space for the homeless during daylight hours.

The Program opens at 11 a.m. and stay open throughout the day to make available services like showers, restroom access, TV, and supervised recreational activities. City social workers will also provide intervening case management services, with the goal of helping the homeless get off the streets and become self-sufficient.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.