[Hpn] Hope Takes Root At Campground For Homeless

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Sat, 29 Dec 2007 21:28:10 -0500


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http://www2.tbo.com:80/content/2007/dec/29/hope-takes-root-campground-hom=
eless/
Hope Takes Root At Campground For Homeless
 David Newman, 41, and his fiancee, Vonda Morris, 42, play cards while =
taking a break from cleaning up their tent at Pinellas Hope in St. =
Petersburg. Pinellas Hope is a project run by Catholic Charities to =
shelter homeless people temporarily in 225 tents while coordinating =
services for them.
By Mike Wells of The Tampa Tribune=20

Published: December 29, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - One month after it opened, Pinellas Hope, a 10-acre =
campsite serving the homeless, has reached capacity.

As of Friday, 225 tents served as temporary lodging for 243 people. Some =
are couples.

People are being fed, given medical care and are being shown =
opportunities for employment and training.

Pinellas Hope is a $1 million pilot project funded by Pinellas County, =
the city of St. Petersburg and retired businessman Harry Stonecipher. =
The project is coordinated and administered by Catholic Charities of St. =
Petersburg on land donated by the Catholic Diocese on 126th Avenue, west =
of 49th Street North in mid-Pinellas County.

With the camp at capacity, new residents are accepted only on Fridays to =
fill vacancies, said Sheila Lopez, chief operating officer of Catholic =
Charities.

On Saturday, Lopez walked briskly over the pine-needle-covered paths =
between the tents and trees. She called out to several residents by =
name, waving and telling them she loves them.

"This is my passion," the 68-year-old said. "Helping people."

Guests are issued a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, personal storage =
locker and a bag for belongings.

Camp residents are running things alongside the volunteers, from =
maintenance to food preparation.

They have to volunteer five hours a week at the camp, Lopez said. "But I =
have some in the kitchen who volunteer 40 hours, and they love it."

Johnny Ptarcinski, 54, arrived at the camp Friday after spending 15 =
years in St. Thomas, he said. Last week, a St. Petersburg police officer =
approached him in a park and asked if he was homeless.

After running a background check on Ptarcinski, the officer offered to =
drive him to the camp Friday, he said.

The former New York resident is looking for work as an auto body repair =
specialist.

"I went to 30 body shops when I got here," he said. "Everybody said =
there was no work. Once they find out you're homeless, you're a marked =
man."

He likes the camp and feels safe there while he looks for work, =
Ptarcinski said.

"Anything beats sleeping on the streets," he said.

The fenced camp is clean, orderly and peaceful.

"It's wonderful," David Newman said.

The 41-year-old electrician and his girlfriend, Vonda Morris, 42, =
arrived at the camp three weeks ago from Tennessee. They've stayed in =
other camps and shelters and said they were concerned about a lack of =
privacy.

"It's a lot better," Newman said. "You have your own space. It's not =
everybody crowded on top of one another."

The organizers provide one meal a day - dinner.

Sixty percent of the residents are living there because of economic =
reasons, Lopez said. Many are carpenters and electricians suffering from =
decline in the construction industry.

Counseling and medical care are provided along with day labor options. =
The goal is to help people transition into self-sufficiency.

There are 10 p.m. weekday and midnight weekend curfews. Residents voted =
to ban drinking and drug use. Bags are searched at the gate as they come =
in.

For some, it isn't easy to follow rules, Lopez said. About 35 people =
have left the camp since it opened.

"Some have gone because they have been placed" in a permanent home, she =
said. "And some are gone because they wanted to go or because they were =
drinking - and I don't tolerate that."

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has contracted with the Diocese to =
patrol the area daily, said sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha. =
Deputies assist the staff, if necessary, with enforcing the camp's =
rules.

The camp will remain open through April 30, Lopez said. In 60 days, =
organizers will determine whether it's affordable to maintain the camp =
afterward.

Lopez said residents are prepared for a cold snap. Their sleeping bags =
are certified to protect to 20 degrees below zero and they received =
donations of sweaters, jackets, socks and underwear on Christmas.

"Santa Claus was very busy this year," she said.


Reporter Steve Kornacki contributed to this report. Reporter Mike Wells =
can be reached at (813) 259-7839 or mwells@tampatrib.com.



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ound-homeless/">http://www2.tbo.com:80/content/2007/dec/29/hope-takes-roo=
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<H2>Hope Takes Root At Campground For Homeless</H2><!-- subhead ??=0A=
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<DIV id=3Dphoto>&nbsp;David Newman, 41, and his fiancee, Vonda Morris, =
42, play=20
cards while taking a break from cleaning up their tent at Pinellas Hope =
in St.=20
Petersburg. Pinellas Hope is a project run by Catholic Charities to =
shelter=20
homeless people temporarily in 225 tents while coordinating services for =

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<DIV id=3Dcontentwell>
<P class=3Dbyline1>By <A class=3Dbold=20
href=3D"mailto:mwells@tampatrib.com"><STRONG>Mike&nbsp;Wells</STRONG></A>=
 of The=20
Tampa Tribune </P>
<P class=3Dpubdate>Published: December 29, 2007</P><A =
name=3Dcontent1></A>
<P>ST. PETERSBURG - One month after it opened, Pinellas Hope, a 10-acre =
campsite=20
serving the homeless, has reached capacity.</P>
<P>As of Friday, 225 tents served as temporary lodging for 243 people. =
Some are=20
couples.</P>
<P>People are being fed, given medical care and are being shown =
opportunities=20
for employment and training.</P>
<P>Pinellas Hope is a $1 million pilot project funded by Pinellas =
County, the=20
city of St. Petersburg and retired businessman Harry Stonecipher. The =
project is=20
coordinated and administered by Catholic Charities of St. Petersburg on =
land=20
donated by the Catholic Diocese on 126th Avenue, west of 49th Street =
North in=20
mid-Pinellas County.</P>
<P>With the camp at capacity, new residents are accepted only on Fridays =
to fill=20
vacancies, said Sheila Lopez, chief operating officer of Catholic =
Charities.</P>
<P>On Saturday, Lopez walked briskly over the pine-needle-covered paths =
between=20
the tents and trees. She called out to several residents by name, waving =
and=20
telling them she loves them.</P>
<P>"This is my passion," the 68-year-old said. "Helping people."</P>
<P>Guests are issued a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, personal =
storage locker=20
and a bag for belongings.</P>
<P>Camp residents are running things alongside the volunteers, from =
maintenance=20
to food preparation.</P>
<P>They have to volunteer five hours a week at the camp, Lopez said. =
"But I have=20
some in the kitchen who volunteer 40 hours, and they love it."</P>
<P>Johnny Ptarcinski, 54, arrived at the camp Friday after spending 15 =
years in=20
St. Thomas, he said. Last week, a St. Petersburg police officer =
approached him=20
in a park and asked if he was homeless.</P>
<P>After running a background check on Ptarcinski, the officer offered =
to drive=20
him to the camp Friday, he said.</P>
<P>The former New York resident is looking for work as an auto body =
repair=20
specialist.</P>
<P>"I went to 30 body shops when I got here," he said. "Everybody said =
there was=20
no work. Once they find out you're homeless, you're a marked man."</P>
<P>He likes the camp and feels safe there while he looks for work, =
Ptarcinski=20
said.</P>
<P>"Anything beats sleeping on the streets," he said.</P>
<P>The fenced camp is clean, orderly and peaceful.</P>
<P>"It's wonderful," David Newman said.</P>
<P>The 41-year-old electrician and his girlfriend, Vonda Morris, 42, =
arrived at=20
the camp three weeks ago from Tennessee. They've stayed in other camps =
and=20
shelters and said they were concerned about a lack of privacy.</P>
<P>"It's a lot better," Newman said. "You have your own space. It's not=20
everybody crowded on top of one another."</P>
<P>The organizers provide one meal a day =96 dinner.</P>
<P>Sixty percent of the residents are living there because of economic =
reasons,=20
Lopez said. Many are carpenters and electricians suffering from decline =
in the=20
construction industry.</P>
<P>Counseling and medical care are provided along with day labor =
options. The=20
goal is to help people transition into self-sufficiency.</P>
<P>There are 10 p.m. weekday and midnight weekend curfews. Residents =
voted to=20
ban drinking and drug use. Bags are searched at the gate as they come =
in.</P>
<P>For some, it isn't easy to follow rules, Lopez said. About 35 people =
have=20
left the camp since it opened.</P>
<P>"Some have gone because they have been placed" in a permanent home, =
she said.=20
"And some are gone because they wanted to go or because they were =
drinking =96 and=20
I don't tolerate that."</P>
<P>The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has contracted with the Diocese =
to=20
patrol the area daily, said sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha. =
Deputies=20
assist the staff, if necessary, with enforcing the camp's rules.</P>
<P>The camp will remain open through April 30, Lopez said. In 60 days,=20
organizers will determine whether it's affordable to maintain the camp=20
afterward.</P>
<P>Lopez said residents are prepared for a cold snap. Their sleeping =
bags are=20
certified to protect to 20 degrees below zero and they received =
donations of=20
sweaters, jackets, socks and underwear on Christmas.</P>
<P>"Santa Claus was very busy this year," she said.</P>
<P></P>
<P class=3Dbold>Reporter Steve Kornacki contributed to this report. =
Reporter Mike=20
Wells can be reached at (813) 259-7839 or =
mwells@tampatrib.com.</P></DIV></DIV>
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