St. Pete Provides Homeless Free Bus Ticket Out of Town

Lady Willpower 2011/01/23 01:33:18
Related Topics: Christmas, Police, Holidays

St. Pete provides homeless free bus ticket out of town

By STEPHEN THOMPSON | The Tampa Tribune

Published: January 13, 2011

Buzz up!

ST. PETERSBURG - Though it still represents a miniscule percentage of the city's homeless population, the number of homeless given a free one-way bus ticket to a family member's home has spiked.

According to city records, six people were given tickets in October, and seven in November. But on Jan. 5, 14 to 15 homeless people met a St. Petersburg police officer at the local Greyhound bus station so they could receive tickets.

The officer, Rich Linkiewicz, who is the police department's designated homeless outreach officer, said there are more homeless people receiving the bus tickets because there is more money for the tickets.

For years, Linkiewicz and his partner, Ryne Laxton, who is with the social services agency, Operation Par, have had access to a discretionary fund for purchases that come up as they deal with the homeless problem.

The money has been used for a variety of things – diapers, to put a young family up in a motel for a night after shelters have closed, medication, and, in one case, stool softener. But the bulk of the money goes toward buying one-way bus tickets for those who qualify, Linkiewicz said.

Five years ago, $500 was put into the fund each month, Linkiewicz said. That increased to $1,000 a month, and then to $2,000 a month. However, Linkiewicz and Laxton were finding they were going through the money in less than a week and a half as the city's homeless population continued to burgeon.

Last year, the city council in St. Petersburg agreed to have $4,000 put into the fund each month. However, the money didn't become accessible until Dec. 20, but, because bus tickets are not given out during the holiday season, Linkiewicz waited until after New Year's to make the tickets available.

"I've been stacking them the last two weeks," Linkiewicz said.

The increase does not represent a sea change in the city's philosophy as it relates to dealing with the homeless, city officials say, and giving homeless people one-way bus tickets is just one of the many things Linkiewicz and Laxton do.

The day after tickets were given out at the bus station, a new $1.8 million shelter with a 500-bed capacity opened up in Clearwater, and Linkiewicz transported more than a dozen homeless people in St. Petersburg to it. By Wednesday, there were 115 residents there, according to the Pinellas Sheriff's office, which is operating it.

The 14 to 15 people who met Linkiewicz at the bus station had been waiting to leave town, he said.

"This is a very minute number in the overall picture," said Rhonda L. Abbott, manager of veteran, social and homeless services for the city of St. Petersburg. The homeless population countywide has been estimated at 6,000.

"Nobody's being forced out of town," Linkiewicz said. "We're not going to bus ticket our way out of this." In general, the homeless have heard about the bus ticket option – or some inaccurate description of it – and inquire about it when they believe they are ready to go to a family member's home, according to Linkiewicz and city officials.

There are certain criteria to receive a free bus ticket, Linkiewicz said.

The reason bus tickets were not given out during the holidays is for fear that, once the homeless people get done celebrating Christmas and New Year's with their families, they will return to St. Petersburg, said Linkiewicz. Tickets are also more expensive during the holidays.

And, a bus ticket is handed out only if there is a family member – as opposed to a girlfriend, or buddy — at the destination who has agreed to take the homeless person in.

"It's so unethical to put them on a bus to nowhere," said Abbott.

Some families, when contacted, have refused to take in their loved one, or they agree to take in their loved one only if the loved one has undergone alcohol or drug treatment, Linkiewicz said.

One of the many reasons people end up homeless is that they have broken relationships with their kin, said Laxton. "Most of our folks have burnt bridges," he said.

But returning a homeless person to their family is considered "one of the most effective" ways of dealing with St. Petersburg's homelessness, said Laxton. "You're sending them back to family where they have the support they need," he said.

"They're often desperate to go back to where their support is," said Abbott.

Add Photos & Videos

Top Opinion

  • sglmom 2011/01/23 01:46:45
    Actually -- this is a GREAT IDEA ... and yes, many of those who are like this have BURNED Their bridges to their Family/Friends long ago with their CHOICES in life ...

    I would support this overall .. it is RESPONSIBLE for the Outreach to contact Family members and to explain the situation .. to see if they will either take in or refuse to take in the one applying for the ticket .. and to know the Concerns of Family Members too (like the Drug/Alcohol problem .. I applaud anyone who says .. NO I WILL NOT contribute to your Addictions .. I care for you .. BUT I AM NOT going to support your Addiction Choice) ...)

    GOOD start on reaching out with compassion!

Sort By
  • Most Raves
  • Least Raves
  • Oldest
  • Newest

  • paunie clark 2014/10/20 17:40:40
    paunie clark
    My daughter and I are homeless and was wondering who could help with a free bus ticket back to tennesse we sre living on the street in mishawaka indiana
  • Dana whiting 2014/02/20 16:19:28
    Dana whiting
    i need help getting my homeless son fron pensacole fl. to orlando fl. he just got out of hospital,he,s hurt and can,t take care of himself , just lost my husband also don,t no what to do can anybody help me thank you
  • Catherine 2013/07/09 22:42:38
  • Catherine 2013/07/09 22:39:09
  • Liset Gonzalez Veliz 2011/07/01 16:08:21
    Liset Gonzalez Veliz
    I would like to know how I can obtain a one way free bus ticket for a friend who is stranded here in Fort Worth from Utah? If you know how she can get one please let me know Thank you. Liset.Veliz@yahoo.com Thank you.
  • BornToBeWild 2011/01/26 05:42:20
    Oh, so this was a way to reunite the homeless with loved ones in possible hope they will be given a better means for tomorrow through family aid...good idea! Those who are pushed away for some reason may return or find a different area to lay their heads.
  • Lady Wi... BornToB... 2011/01/27 01:36:17
    Lady Willpower
    It is a good idea. As long as they are willing to help themselves, I think it's a good idea to help them out and to bring them back to their families.
  • doofiegirl BTO-t- BCRA-F ~... 2011/01/25 21:08:55
    doofiegirl  BTO-t- BCRA-F ~PWCM~
    What an absolutely wonderful thing! I salute St Petersburg!
  • Lady Wi... doofieg... 2011/01/26 01:50:32
    Lady Willpower
    It is a good idea. St Pete was overrun with homeless people over the last few years. They've put a ban on panhandling to get them off the streets. Also they are no longer allowed to sleep on the streets. It's all a step in the right direction.
  • doofieg... Lady Wi... 2011/01/26 12:17:20
    doofiegirl  BTO-t- BCRA-F ~PWCM~
    And there are a few Very happy families!
  • Lady Wi... doofieg... 2011/01/27 01:36:34
    Lady Willpower
    Yes, very happy families.
  • Beer30 2011/01/25 07:14:25
    It's a bad idea.
    It's a foolish waste of taxpayer money.
  • bags 2011/01/25 01:22:05
    A marvelous idea. These people aren't being forced into anything, their reunion with their family is being facilitated by St. Pete. I wish more places would do this. I think there are a lot of homeless that would just like to 'go home'.
  • Lady Wi... bags 2011/01/25 01:25:56
    Lady Willpower
    A lot of them would probably like to go home but think they can't. This is a great way to help the ones who do what it and who have family to go home to.
  • dink 2011/01/24 22:59:42
    It's better than putting them on the welfare rolls. Getting them back to their own families also might get them out of harms way on the streets.
  • Lady Wi... dink 2011/01/25 01:26:14
    Lady Willpower
    I agree
  • bags dink 2011/01/25 01:28:48
    You're right...it can save lives as well.
  • Lady Wi... bags 2011/01/25 01:31:07
    Lady Willpower
    It certainly can.
  • Lily Blooms Eternal 2011/01/24 18:23:19
    Lily Blooms Eternal
    If only New Orleans had had a mayor with the brains to bus people out of town.

    orleans mayor brains bus people town school bus nagin


    /Nagin_Memorial_Motor_Pool.jp... brains bus people town httpwww moonbattery comar naginmemorialmotorpool jp school bus ray nagin

    brains bus people town httpwww moonbattery comar naginmemorialmotorpool jp school bus ray nagin
  • Lady Wi... Lily Bl... 2011/01/25 01:26:39
    Lady Willpower
    You're right. If only...
  • Old Salt Lily Bl... 2011/01/25 17:56:05
  • Lily Bl... Old Salt 2011/01/25 18:34:00
    Lily Blooms Eternal
    An example of no good deed going unpunished, it sounds like!
  • Old Salt Lily Bl... 2011/01/25 19:11:08
  • DouglasSignorovitch 2011/01/24 15:16:43
    This sounds great if they are willing to go and have families. And a little bit of help like that could make all the differance in there lives and also help the city. Sounds like a win-win.
  • Lady Wi... Douglas... 2011/01/25 01:27:28
    Lady Willpower
    The ones who were interviewed for the TV news story all expressed appreciation toward the ability to return home.
  • jerrbear 2011/01/24 04:09:34
    I wonder how many more cities will start doing this?
  • Lady Wi... jerrbear 2011/01/25 01:27:48
    Lady Willpower
    It would be a great step in the right direction.
  • Angel 2011/01/23 22:08:34
    I guess if the homeless want to get out of there , this is a blessing for them, I am glad there is money available for it and for the other uses such as diapers etc...
  • Lady Wi... Angel 2011/01/24 01:32:54
    Lady Willpower
    It's a great program because it gets them back to their families and gives them an opportunity to get back on their feet again.
  • Angel Lady Wi... 2011/01/24 01:34:06
    and that is always a great place to be,with family and on your own feet too...
  • Brian 2011/01/23 21:16:39
    Thats right a oneway ticket so St. Pete don't have to deal with them anymore!
    You know feed and shelter them as well as them making their town look bad.
    So they push them on some other town! Why don't they create job programs for them.
    deal feed shelter town push town create job programs Well work for food
  • Lady Wi... Brian 2011/01/24 01:35:37
    Lady Willpower
    Only certain people are eligible for the ticket and not everyone gets one so this is not a case of shoving them out of town and making it someone else's problem. They have to have a family member who is willing to take them in and help them get back on their feet. If they don't have that waiting for them, they don't get a ticket.
  • Brian Lady Wi... 2011/01/24 01:40:27
    Sorry i guss i saw it wrong. I did go to Tampa a month ago and saw a lot of homless people everywhere on every conner st. with there sighns. so sad!
  • Jack Sprat 2011/01/23 20:38:58
    Jack Sprat
    Great Idea up until it becomes "summer in Chi-town" and Winters in sunny FLA. If they have a drug and alcohol rehab program to go along with it, great, otherwise the taxpayers are footing the bill for the sunshine express. Compassion is more than just relocating the problem person to someone else's location.
  • Lady Wi... Jack Sprat 2011/01/24 01:37:07
    Lady Willpower
    Not so. The city of St. Pete is not giving tickets out willy-nilly to anyone who asks for it. They have to prove that there is a family member who is willing to take them in and get them back on their feet. If that is not available, they don't receive a ticket.
  • Jack Sprat Lady Wi... 2011/01/25 01:42:19
    Jack Sprat
    I believe that I actually said, "Great Idea up until it becomes". And I believe that St Pete is in the saner part of Fla.
  • Pug For Huck 2011/01/23 19:24:38
    Pug For Huck
    Good deal.

    Ship to:

    Barrack and Michelle Obama
    C/O Liberals Everywhere
    White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Ave
    Washington DC, 20500

    Ask for Michelle, she'll have a meal on the table.

    Tell her Pug sent ya!!
  • Lady Wi... Pug For... 2011/01/24 01:38:05
    Lady Willpower
    What a great idea!! Free beds in the White House. Michelle would find herself in like company at last!!
  • Pug For... Lady Wi... 2011/01/24 01:48:38
    Pug For Huck
    Well, now she could spout off about nutrition to her hearts content. They won't listen either, but it's the only way she can get a captive audience.
  • Lady Wi... Pug For... 2011/01/24 02:10:37
    Lady Willpower
    But they would all smell the same...

See Votes by State

The map above displays the winning answer by region.

News & Politics

2016/02/14 14:49:34

Hot Questions on SodaHead
More Hot Questions

More Community More Originals