St. Petersburg parking meters to raise money for the homeless

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  • St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman

Speaking at The St. Vincent De Paul homeless shelter in St. Petersburg on Tuesday morning, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced the city's latest attempt to combat homelessness and panhandling: a system of repurposed parking meters that would serve as a point of collection for donations to homeless programs

“Residents and visitors who want to help a homeless person are encourage to support the programs and agencies that serve the homeless by depositing their change in these meters rather than give money directly to panhandlers,” said Kriseman as he explained these “Power of Change” meters.

Locations of the meters announced so far will be Beach Drive, Central Avenue, around Tropicana Field, and the St. Vincent De Paul homeless shelter itself.

The meter program drew it's inspiration from similar setups across the country, most notably Denver, where 100 of these parking meters raise $100,000 annually for homeless causes, according to Kriseman.

“While we don't anticipate it generating that much annually,” said the Mayor, “we do anticipate it generating a few more extra dollars to help us meet the needs that exist.”

This program is only one aspect of Kriseman's focus on homelessness. The Mayor also announced plans to follow through on the recommendations of consultant Dr. Robert Marbut who was brought in earlier this year to evaluate the St. Petersburg efforts toward alleviating homelessness.

These suggestions included fulfilling financial pledges to Pinellas Safe Harbor, reinstating the Pinellas Sherriff's Homeless Diversion program, and providing funding for St. Vincent De Paul to move towards 24/7 service. So far the city has provided the funds for Pinellas Safe Harbor and St. Vincent De Paul, with plans for the Homeless Diversion program to be reinstated once the funding is secured.

Also mentioned is a renewed focus on Downtown's Williams Park, long known as a hub of the homeless community. Plans include maintaining a constant police presence and working with PSTA to address safety concerns and issues with the bus shelters at the park, as well as scheduling events such as a St. Petersburg College “Fun Day in the Park” and encouraging food trucks to make their presence felt.

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