By Cassandra Khan, CBS Tampa

The City of Clearwater has closed restrooms and shut off power in its public parks in an effort to get homeless people off of the streets, beaches, and park, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The restrooms at Crest Lake Park were welded shut by crews after the city heard accounts of the homeless using them for drug use, prostitution, and sleeping.

Officials turned off power outlets at Station Square Park and Coachman Park because there were reports of homeless people using them to charge their electronics.

Horne stressed that cutting off the power was important because it was an attraction for the homeless. “In parks, especially where they have to be maintained, we have noticed they have been powering iPods, and cellphones,” said Horne. He added that they are using electrical services without paying for them and are attracted to facilities that can help them maintain their life.

These actions are part of the city’s latest initiative to try and make it tougher for the homeless to live on the street. Robert Marbut, Clearwater’s homelessness consultant, said the city needs to focus more on programs that will help the homeless get back on their feet and less that allow them to continue living on the street with no reason to make their lives better.

These ideas were presented last year when the two discouraged people from donating to the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The Times also found that the city has spent less than half of what it spent last year on social services for the poor and homeless. In 2008, it spent over $800,000 in that area, and used $500,000 for the Homeless Emergency Project, an organization focused on providing “homeless and very low income individuals with and families with housing, food, clothing and support services necessary to obtain self-sufficiency and improved quality of life”. The city has spent $175,000 on the poor and homeless since October.

Instead of pushing programs like food giveaways, the city wants to support more engagement in services like job training. In a document recording the minutes of a May 17 council meeting, Marbut made many suggestions of how to implement a “culture of transformation that engages homeless individuals and integrates them back into society and realigning sleeping and feeding magnets with agency services.” These suggestions included changing park closing times to dusk or 9 p.m., prohibition of reclining on sidewalks in the downtown or gateway and beach corridors, prohibition of overnight sleeping or camping in public spaces, and prohibition of bathing in public fountains.

“We are very concerned about the transient homeless presence. You could almost conclude that they want to live on the street,” said Horne, “we would love for them to go to a place where they can get help.”

Horne listed Safe Harbor, Homeless Emergency Project, and Pinellas Hope as locations where the homeless could go to receive assistance.


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