Steps against homeless called 'cruel' by some | News
Clearwater, Florida -- Clearwater has become the latest Bay area city taking increased steps to curb homelessness.
But this time, critics say some of the tactics being used are downright cruel, and even affects tax-paying residents who aren't homeless.
"They keep people moving 'cause they're homeless. They don't have anywhere to go," says Glimmert Beckham, who's been on the streets of Clearwater for close to a year now.
Beckham says it's always been tough, but that the latest steps taken by city officials go way beyond that.
"It's not nice. It's cruel," says Beckham.
This week, the City of Clearwater began the process of making it unbearable for Beckham and others trying to make it on the streets.
At public parks like Station Square, they've cut off power to the outlets some were using to charge their phones. They've removed hoses and water spigot handles to make it harder for people to wash themselves off.
And at Crest Lake Park, the bathroom doors were welded shut this week, which doesn't sit well with plenty of people who aren't homeless and need to use the restroom.
Berfin Correa, a Clearwater mom who takes her young son to the parks, says it's unfair to the homeless... and to her.
"I pay my taxes. I want to use the bathroom, to use a public place," she says.
City officials say it's a balance, and make no secret of it. They don't want Clearwater to be perceived as a haven for panhandling or homelessness.
"We don't want that to be our signature image, you know, obviously," said City Manager Bill Horne. "But we also want to be humane in how we handle the issue."
Horne says it's more of a tough love approach, designed to get people off the streets and into structured programs that can help them get back on their feet. He points to places like Pinellas County's Safe Harbor, or Pinellas Hope.
"We feel like we can do a better job and a more committed job in encouraging them to seek those services that do exist," said Horne.
But people like Glimmert Beckham say they have no interest in programs or shelters that he describes as one step above jail.
"I will not have anyone restrict my freedom like that," he says.
Beckham says he'd prefer to be left alone. And some of these steps, he says, are in his opinion, inhumane.
"They are trying to do what many a society have tried to do over the years. Get rid of the homeless, the poor, the beggars, whatever," he says.
The city insists it's not just trying to get people to move along to someplace else.
While taking these controversial steps, they've also given $50,000 to Safe Harbor this year, and are considering another $50,000 in the coming weeks.
Clearwater has spent a total of almost $200,000 on homeless related initiatives and improvements this year.
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