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Sunday, Feb 19, 2017

Clearwater considers 'sitting' ban to curb homeless

The Clearwater City Council is considering an ordinance that would ban sitting in some areas of the municipality to fight the growing homeless problem. The city council heard the details of the ordinance for the first time today at a workshop session. But, there are many questions on the proposal. "What about the rest of the city?" asked councilor Doreen Hock-DiPolito. "In other words, the Ross Norton pool, MLK area, or Countryside?" The city said the idea came from a consultant who was hired to address how to handle the homeless.
If the city passes the ordinance, anyone caught violating the law could face a $500 fine or up to 60 days in jail. Last month the city closed restrooms in public parks, like in Crestlake Park where the doors are welded shut. Bob Dillinger, the public defender for Pinellas and Pasco counties, opposes the new plan. "Arresting the homeless is the most expensive way to try and address the problem and the least effective," said Dillinger. "The general rule of thumb is that 80 percent of the homeless want help." Dillinger said he would appreciate it if the homeless could be transported to the county shelter, but the nearby Safe Harbor shelter is already at capacity with 400 people. The council will allow public comment during its next meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday and next month, when it is scheduled to make a final decision.