Homeless Outreach Teams in Pinellas County

by Officer Steve Vangeli, Pinellas Park PD

In 2006, various officials from Pinellas County, the city of St. Petersburg, and the city of Pinellas Park visited the cities of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami to observe their homeless outreach facilities and operations. Both of these areas had established protocols on handling the homeless and had become models for the rest of the state. By February of 2007, the Pinellas Park Police Department, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and St. Petersburg Police Department had developed Homeless Outreach Teams in which a civilian social worker would work side by side, full time, partnered with a law enforcement officer. Presently all three departments have teams that work full time in Pinellas County assisting the homeless.

These departments have contracted with homeless shelters in Pinellas County and have beds reserved for law enforcement officers. The homeless are transported by the officers and social workers directly to the shelter. In addition to having a place to sleep, the residents are given information and resources to get them back on their feet in order to become productive citizens. The program is a partnership with Pinellas County and the contracted cities with outreach teams. This new and unique method of dealing with today's homeless population has been extremely successful and has been a model for other law enforcement agencies in the state of Florida.

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