I snapped this photo of a presumably homeless individual sleeping in St. Petersburg’s Williams Park — in complete violation of the city’s ordinance against such activity. I could have snapped another dozen photographs just like this one, as the park was all but overrun by the homeless and destitute (in addition to the usual buzzies and drug dealers).
In July of 2011, the city began to enforce the city’s ordinances against sleeping in public places.
Until then, police hadn’t been able to enforce the public sleeping ban because of a lack of available beds in area shelters.
But after Pinellas Safe Harbor, the county’s homeless shelter, began operating with excess capacity, police started giving homeless people options: go to the shelter, find somewhere else to sleep or be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
“Those who really want to exercise the right to sleep on a sidewalk need to do in another county,” Mayor Bill Foster said at the time.
I recently texted Mayor Foster with a brief message: “Williams Park looking rough. Lots of homeless sleeping. Hope were not regressing.”
Should we be worried? Is Williams Park regressing to its former self? Or did I just happen to walk by on a particularly homeless-y day?