NewsPinellas County


New St. Pete Police unit helps those experiencing homelessness

Posted at 5:45 PM, Jul 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-18 17:57:26-04

A new St. Pete Police unit is hitting the streets, curbing crime while helping the community's most vulnerable get back on their feet.

Sgt. Ryan Hilsdon helps those experiencing homelessness.

The new outreach unit called "Path" (Police assisting the homeless) is working to help.

“If we can reach at least one person I think that’s a benefit to us and for our community, helping one person,” Hilsdon said.

Bettie lives in a wooded area east of I-275 at a homeless camp, and officers check in on her weekly.

Seven officers are part of the program, armed with guns, but more importantly, goods.

"We have some socks that came in, some washcloths, other toiletry items," Hilsdon said.

“I love them. They are very nice. You feel like you know them now? I do know them! I love them. They’re my security guard," Bettie said.

In six months, the unit has made more than 2,000 connections with people experiencing homelessness. Nearly half have agreed to get help through local resources.

“We understand that it might take 10, 20, 30 individual contacts to actually get with that person and convince them, hey, maybe living on the street isn’t what’s best for them.”

The city is generating more money to help people in need. 13 old parking meters collect change that go directly to the PATH unit.

Money collected through these "power of change" meters is spent on hygiene products, a bus pass or work boots.