Residents of Summers Park on Park Boulevard will lose their homes in about 18 months. It’s feared that some will face homelessness.
PINELLAS PARK – A city councilman who sits on a Pinellas County committee to end homelessness by 2016 said that the number of homeless people is rising to a point that resolving the problems has become increasingly difficult.
Councilman Rick Butler at the Jan. 24 City Council agenda session said city and county officials must share a commitment to end homelessness.
In 2005, the report says, there were about 4,500 homeless people in the county, 885 of them being children.
The report says that about 370 people each week lose their permanent homes. Of those, 294 will have no place to stay, and 32 will be children.
The problem is expected to increase as more mobile home parks are bulldozed to make way for luxury housing and shopping centers.
Targeted locally are the Golden Lantern mobile home park and Summers Park, both on Park Boulevard.
The Golden Lantern property is earmarked for a shopping mini-mall and for new housing, but residents so far have been successful in blocking the plan. Summers Park will be razed in about 18 months to make way for a city retention pond.
The Pinellas County Homeless Policy Group consists of local government officials from Pinellas County and the cities of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park and Tarpon Springs.
Some school officials, government agency representatives, community and business leaders and others played a role in creating the report.
Butler said the 60-page plan was the result of an 18-month study aimed at improving the lifestyles of the homeless, eliminating barriers and finding solutions.
“The number of shelter beds and the money spent on homeless people has increased in the last five years,” Butler said, “but so has the amount of people who live on the streets.”
Butler said only about 33 percent of them work at full or part time jobs while about 22 percent receive public benefits.
Homeless people generally work at dead-end jobs, officials said. It’s estimated that only about 30 percent earn more than $500 monthly.
The report says that chronic homelessness has skyrocketed in recent years and include more families with children.
Cited also were medical, drug, alcohol abuse and behavioral issues along with domestic violence.
Many of the city’s homeless live in wooded areas along U.S. 19.
Bulter said a comprehensive plan to fight homelessness must be implemented. He called upon government and civic leaders to develop a system for dealing with the problem.
The report, Bulter said, calls for the creation of a special council that would work with the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless and other organizations such as foundations, local governments, churches and schools to develop solutions.
“There is no formalized outreach program to help these people,” Butler said. “Street people are mostly those with mental illness and substance abuse issues,” Butler said.