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    Letters to the Editors

    Feeding homeless in park creates safety issue

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 24, 2000


    Re: When did feeding the hungry become a crime? Oct. 22 column by Diane Steinle.

    The last line of your column quoted Clearwater police Chief Sid Klein in reference to the increasing number of homeless in the area. He said, "Government has a responsibility to protect its downtown." He is correct. I would go further to say that government has a right to protect the law-abiding citizens and families in the neighborhoods of this city.

    Your column took a twisted slant on this issue. You imply that the majority of homeless Clearwater is dealing with are just everyday people who have run into bad luck and circumstances and are simply hungry. This could not be further from the truth.

    It is a documented fact that the majority of these people travel from city to city, know each others' itineraries, and chose this way of life. They have grown to appreciate their own commitment-free, eccentric way of life. Providing easy meals creates a homeless "Club Med" in Clearwater, and they know which cities cater to them best.

    The bigger issue is that the majority of these same folk have needs that could be helped. They don't necessarily see how routine drunkenness, petty crime and theft, loitering and unattended mental illness can be a problem.

    From what I understand, Chief Klein's project goes farther than simply providing food. It is an intervention program that gets them help with food as the vehicle to finding their needs. It helps most those who choose to have some personal responsibility in their lives.

    Crest Lake Park is a perfect example of the side effects of the easy food programs that exist in this city. Many neighborhood mothers do not take their children there without dad. They choose instead to drive to another city, Largo, where they are not confronted and harassed by some of these same homeless individuals.

    To simply answer the question and title of your column, feeding the homeless is a crime when it creates an environment in our public parks and open spaces where neighbors fear for their safety and that of their children.
    -- Ric and Justine Ortega, Clearwater

    Helping homeless is a noble thing

    Re: Accused pastor remains in jail, Oct. 14 story.

    So I see this scruffy guy beside Clearwater Mall holding a cardboard sign that says, "Homeless and Hungry." I've seen him and others like him before. Sometimes I come across with a buck or some change and forget about it. But this morning, I read about Pastor Randy Morrow and I think I might get arrested or a ticket if I give this guy any money.

    I'm in no hurry, so I pull over and walk up to him. Just curious. He tells me he camps in the woods nearby and panhandles for money for something to eat and, if he's really lucky, a six-pack and cigarettes. That's his take for the day.

    Well, I'm looking over my shoulder for the Clearwater Big Brother Patrol to cruise by as I reach into my pocket.

    "Hey, you got your homeless card?" I remember to ask. "Oh yeah," he says, "but I left it in my other pants." We laugh. We don't even know what that is. Do they take a picture of you, weigh you to make sure you're underweight and verify which bridge or tree you live under?

    I give him $5. "Get some breakfast, a couple beers and a pack of smokes," I tell him. I know I'll do the same thing later myself. He thanks me sincerely -- looks me dead in the eyes, too.

    I feel like I did a pretty good thing, but I can't help but look in my rearview mirror for police Chief Sid Klein or one of his nothing-better-to-do officers.

    I think about this awhile, until lunchtime, when I read the religion page just five pages from the Morrow article, and I figure it out. You can charge people a "donation" to cure them of any and all emotional, spiritual and physical ills, but God forbid, "Don't feed the homeless!"

    No wonder that guy doesn't pay taxes or vote.
    -- Carol J. Pratt, Seminole

    Police chief picks on a tiny church

    Re: Accused pastor remains in jail, Oct. 14 story.

    So Randy Morrow irked police by feeding the homeless at the Church of Hope? And Chief Sid Klein gave police orders to "check out" the church? And Klein asked his officers to give "extra effort" to patrolling that area? Really?

    And did the police really line their cruisers in the parking lot with sirens blaring? This is a very hard thing for a citizen of the United States of America to believe.

    If this is the policy of the Clearwater Police Department, I would ask Chief Klein if he would attempt these practices against, say, Calvary Baptist Church or the Church of Scientology, and how long does he think he would remain chief of police?
    -- Terry Kelly, Clearwater

    Pastor did right thing feeding homeless

    While he may not be an angel, Pastor Randy Morrow sounds like a man called to a higher order who is trying to do the right thing by feeding the homeless in Clearwater.

    Seems to me the city has too many rules and regulations for feeding those less fortunate than us, as well as too much protesting of one man called to turn his life around and give hope to people in need.

    Bravo to Randy Morrow and the Church of Hope. I hope the chief, the investigator and the judge are not left behind for their deeds.
    -- Judy J. Boyd, Palm Harbor

    Revitalizing downtown is unavoidable

    Re: Clearwater needs better management, Oct. 17 letter.

    Now that the taxpayers have been heard and voted down the opportunity to have private investment foot the bill for downtown Clearwater revitalization, we are left with really just two hard choices.

    One is to do nothing. We are all familiar with this choice. We can allow downtown to continue to deteriorate, bringing more empty storefronts, lack of activity and lack of a sufficient tax base.

    The second choice is to come to the consensus that something must be done and done now. Begin public improvements in order to create private interest in the form of shops, restaurants, small businesses, etc. This and only this will create the tax base we need.

    As for a tax increase, don't kid yourselves. We either invest in downtown now or have to prop up a failing downtown later.

    There is a reason why cities all over this country are making these tough decisions and moving ahead with revitalizing their downtowns. They will reap the rewards and so should we.
    -- Pam Marks, Clearwater

    We can't put rights ahead of God

    Re: School leader: Scouts take wrong path, Oct. 15 letter.

    I am a frequent viewer of the Pinellas School Board meetings on television and have observed member Linda Lerner in her decision-making processes.

    Perhaps Ms. Lerner does have her own brand of hate for anything that might attempt to take away her right to believe anything that she wants. Unfortunately, many others think her way and then substantiate their thinking by name calling.

    The Boy Scouts of America leadership is not prejudiced nor does it discriminate. These leaders held true to the principles by which they were organized. These principles declare honesty, wholesome living, loyalty to God and family values based on the principles of God.

    God is the one who declared that alternative lifestyles are an abomination unto God, not the Boy Scouts. These leaders have stood firm in their beliefs, which is their right. If Ms. Lerner wants to disagree, she must disagree with God, not the Boy Scouts with their programs and values.

    One of the problems with Ms. Lerner and all too much of society today is that they have placed rights ahead of God. This country was founded upon the principles of God, but God has been all but forgotten in favor of rights. The only right that we creations of God have is the right to accept God or reject God.
    -- Carl MacMillan, Clearwater

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