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18th Street tent city could move

Published February 28, 2007


The 18th Street tent city, considered a growing nuisance by some business people and residents, is going to be moved soon, officials said this week.

The tents and those using them could be relocated to the original tent city site at St. Vincent de Paul's Sophie Sampson Center for Hope, said Goliath Davis, deputy mayor for Midtown.

"Right now, we're negotiating with St. Vincent de Paul," Davis said. Any move, Davis said, would be a "collaboration" among city government, St. Vincent and advocates for the homeless.

Meanwhile, the City Council Thursday will consider enacting an ordinance that would outlaw tents and camping in the right of way.

It is aimed at the tent city on 18th Street between First Avenue N and Central Avenue, where the camp began springing up in January.

Thursday's council action will be a first reading, but officials would like to see it roll on a fast track.

City Council member Jeff Danner said he is optimistic that the city's legal team will draft a law "that's passed the test of time" and can withstand constitutional challenges.

And then, he said, he hopes the campers can begin relocating soon.

"Maybe within a week or two to start moving," Danner said.

The tent relocation is one of the ideas stemming from Saturday's homeless summit, a convening of about 200 people representing all sides of the issue. "It went extremely well," Davis said.

"What was really important to note was that everyone, tent city (residents), everyone, agreed that tents are not the solution, that we've got to get away from them," Davis said.

Davis also said the people who attended seemed to understand that the criminal justice system, while having a role, is not the ultimate answer.'

"We are not going to arrest our way out of this problem," he said.

Among the attendees was Jay Sokolovsky, an anthropology professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

He said he yelled to Mayor Rick Baker: "How about some more affordable housing?"

But Sokolovsky noted, too, that homelessness is not an issue to lay only at the city's door.

"One of the common threads was the recognition that no matter how well you organize things here, the forces that's cause homelessness are regional and national, sometimes global," he said.

[Last modified February 27, 2007, 20:28:17]

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