St. Pete City Council approves interlocal agreement with newly-formed Homeless Leadership Board

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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.

This consolidation of the two entities has been in process for about a year. As a source of full disclosure, I am a former member of the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless Board of Directors and was a part of this planning process. One of the critical concerns in the development of this single entity was determining a balance of representation between service providers and elected officials. The final determination, which underwent great debate, discussions and planning is described below.

The structure of the new Homeless Leadership Board will be a nonprofit organization that will focus on homeless families, individuals and unaccompanied youth. An emphasis also is on homeless prevention.

The newly formed Board of Directors will be comprised of 21 members plus a Chief Executive Officer and “adequate staff,” of which the entity currently has funding to support 2.5 staff. The board will include seven elected officials, one each from the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners and the cities of Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs and the Public Defender’s Office. Twelve community leaders also will sit on the board to include: one from JWB Children’s Services Council of Pinellas County, four service experts, two faith-based organization representatives, two business representatives, one healthcare representative, one at-large representative and one homeless or formerly homeless representative.

The Homeless Leadership Board also will have two major councils, which will provide comprehensive information and recommendations for action and approval to the board, the Providers Council and the Funders Council. Each council will have a representative on the Board of Directors.

The Homeless Leadership Board, Inc. will rely on existing human service or business networks and committees as much as possible, to discuss and make recommendations on homeless issues, instead of creating additional committees.

Via Daphne Taylor Street, SaintPetersBlog City Hall correspondent.  You can reach Daphne at

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