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Churches should open to homeless

Letters to the Editor
Published February 25, 2007


Neighborhood Times articles on the homeless Feb. 18.

The series of articles last Sunday manifested with striking clarity that the needs of the homeless are variable. But the leading immediate need is shelter. Huge churches abound in Pinellas County, and it would be wonderful if some of them would open their doors to shelter the homeless year-round. Security personnel would keep the tranquility constant in these settings. Any vacant buildings anywhere in the county could be converted to shelter any homeless people.

Let's face it, a tornado or hurricane, loss of a job, a home fire, a medical disaster, etc., could render any of us homeless. It is dead wrong to arrest a person for simply being homeless. That's hardly a warm endorsement for caring. In a civilized society a person's welfare, security and well-being count for everything. In all our lives, would we not all welcome the forces of light when darkness falls?

What did Jesus teach? We must all be compassionate community caretakers and help, not hurt, the homeless. We must expect a deterioration of manners in the chronically homeless but must work to salvage lives and not discard them like pieces of trash.

Robert B. Fleming, St. Petersburg


Let's protect businesses

My wife and I lived in St. Petersburg for 30 years and ran a business there for nearly 20 of those years. It was not always easy to pay our taxes or abide by all of the city ordinances and codes, but it was a necessary fact of life to maintain a reasonable neighborhood and avoid the wrath of city officials. We moved away from St. Petersburg last year to a more rural environment. We elected to keep the business property we own in St. Petersburg to generate an income from a property that we had operated and maintained for a substantial period of time. Last month we began to actively seek a tenant for the property.

Now, due to the illegal and unsavory activities across the street, the property has become virtually worthless. Expensive advertising has generated many inquiries about the property, but once prospects drive past the property they lose all interest in operating a business across the street from a "tent city."

I drive down to St. Petersburg every week or two to check on the facility and spend most of my time picking up litter and liquor bottles. I've been doing my best to stay current on the situation from 130 miles away, but after several weeks of this dilemma, something must be done.

The laws and ordinances are supposedly intended to maintain safety, order and neighborhood values. And, as far as I can tell, a population that contributes little or nothing to the city is blatantly violating the spirit and intent of those regulations with absolute immunity. I've read numerous accounts of possible solutions and initiatives and am getting quite disgusted with it all.

We can work out involved solutions (if any really exist) after we reconcile the current dilemma of the law-abiding local merchants and property owners. Regulations are not intended for only those who prefer to abide by them. Enough is enough.

John Clifford, Silver Springs


Solution may be problem

The plight of the homeless in this part of Florida has become a problem. It's sad to see how these folks cope with existing. Some have personal or family problems, while others simply will not adjust to societal mores like the rest of us because they enjoy this kind of life.

What is interesting, however, is how some of our good citizens want to provide better living facilities for them. This is very admirable, but our communities should proceed with the utmost caution.

There are two reasons why providing better living facilities could be detrimental to our communities. First, it probably would not help a great percentage of these homeless souls because they are content to live as they do. Second, we all could be faced with even more of them when the word gets out that good accommodations are provided in this part of Florida - "Come on down!"

Providing additional living facilities that may be considered temporary could very well end up with a certain amount of permanency. The very thought of this happening is chilling.

Jack Keller Sr., Belleair Bluffs


Free housing not answer

We almost always have a homeless employee. We have had lots because virtually none lasts more than three weeks on the job, and most can't make it through a long weekend. They are homeless because they cannot keep a job because of alcoholism or drug abuse.

In our experience, day laborers are only available for one day at a time because once they are paid they are drunk and cannot work the next day. We need people for the whole weekend and cannot get many to return the next day and have to retrain every day. They show up to work outside with no food or water, but will never forget to stop by the liquor store after work. Almost all have children somewhere being raised by someone.

We would be better served by a system that says if they work that day, they are housed that night. Money from the work should also go to support families that they have left behind. Free housing is not the answer. It is a slap in the face to those of us who work for a living every day and those families left behind by these people who have chosen the bottle or a drug as their focus.

Sandra French, St. Pete Beach


Chief, you have answer 

Chief: Raid on tents an error Feb. 15

St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon admitted to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club that it was a mistake to slash the tents of the homeless. He says the mayor delegated to him the tent city issue. He says the decision was made during a meeting that included himself, Deputy Mayor Dave Metz and police Maj. Melanie Bevan.

When asked whether anyone was going to be held accountable, he said it would take another 40 to 45 days " look at the entire incident" and then judge.

In my opinion, he has already named three people who bear responsibility. They were at that meeting. So don't waste any more time and money.

Jim Santamour, St. Petersburg


[Last modified February 25, 2007, 07:54:59]

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