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Being Homeless in Tarpon Springs

The issue of homelessness has drawn attention from Tarpon Springs officials, residents and even City Commission candidates.

Go on a ride-along with Tarpon Springs Police Department and it seems clear many of the homeless in the area are content with their current state.

According to the Tarpon Springs Homeless Outreach Officer Jose Yourgules, the homeless usually end up in a nomadic state due to mental illness or substance abuse.

Officer Yourgules said that unless an individual is breaking the law, the police can only offer to help the situation by informing that person about the opportunities that are available.

"The hardest part about this job is trying to convince somebody that thinks he's got it OK, that it can be better," Yourgules said. "There's very little we can do with the homeless, unless they want help."

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What Tarpon Springs is Saying

Homelessness is becoming the topic of discussion for many Tarponites, including long-time residents and Tarpon Springs Commission candidates.
On the Tarpon Springs Patch Facebook page, residents have voiced their perspectives.

Adam Harvey wrote, "We are starting to get way too many homeless in town."

Others feel that the outreach programs offered around Tarpon Springs are a good thing.

"The police to a good job of protecting us by addressing social issues. Officer Yourgules has done a very good job protecting us by helping some of the homeless lead productive lives," Patsy Renz commented.

What the Homeless Have to Say

For Larry Schuff, 54, life took an unexpected turn when his boss, who was also his roommate, passed away.

Schuff said that he was unable to find work after the business folded and ended up on the streets of Tarpon Springs, where he's been for the last decade.

"It's very hard to find a job," Schuff said. 

Officer Yourgules said that one of the common obstacles homeless face when attempting to get back on their feet is a lack of identification and/or a birth certificate.

According to Yourgules, a lot of people lose their IDs and are unable to replace them due to the required fees.

Schuff added that he receives money from passers-by and that he doesn't use drugs, but does like to drink beer. 

Brian Kennedy, a friend of Schuff, shared a similar story. 

Kennedy, 54, grew up eating at Pappas' restaurant in Tarpon Springs and found himself homeless in the area about eight years ago. 

After his family's marina floundered, Kennedy never recovered.

"You can't get a job now," Kennedy said. 

The two agreed that they "love Tarpon Springs."

"I like the people here because they're polite," Schuff added.

Schuff and Kennedy said that their plans for the next five years are plain and simple: staying alive.

Endale Negewo, 32, said he has been in Tarpon Springs for about 15 years. In fact, he used to work for the city, he said.

Recently, Negewo was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 

"I always said that something was wrong," Negewo said. "Now, I go to see a psychiatrist."

As far as the future, Negewo said that he might try to apply for disability.

Rick O'Connell, 47, was diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after taking his life to the streets.

O'Connell said he suffered an injury while working in the printing industry, which left him with two back surgeries and an inability to perform his usual duties.

"The biggest part of my day is getting food, water and smokes," O'Connell said. 

O'Connell receives $200 a month in food stamps, so he said that he tries to use the hot meals sparingly.

"There might be someone else out there that doesn't get food stamps, so they should have that meal," O'Connell said.

How the Homeless Survive

Each homeless individual who spoke with Tarpon Springs Patch said that they take full advantage of the multiple offerings available around the city. 

In Tarpon Springs, homeless are able to receive a free, hot meal seven days a week at a few different facilities, including St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox CathedralSt. Timothy's Lutheran Church and the Community Building across from City Hall. 

Three days a week, G.R.A.C.E. Chapel opens its doors to the homeless for free showers, a meal and the freedom to use a washer and dryer. 

The Tarpon Springs Shepherd Center also offers a number of outreach programs that include food, clothing and even furniture. 

What has been your experience with the homeless in Tarpon Springs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Donald Turnbaugh February 13, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Tarpons Springs Police helping the homeless instead of hassling them is awesome! The Officers know most have a mental illness. Officers can improve their knowledge of how to effectively deal with any person with a mental illness by attending the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) 40-hour course as have over 1,200 Pinellas County law enforcement officers!
Tommy Frain February 13, 2013 at 04:20 PM
As a City Commission candidate I fully support CIT training for all officers. This is the same training the current homeless outreach officer has received and every officer should be equipped with the same knowledge.
Anne Cobb aka www.thepostcardlady.com February 18, 2013 at 02:37 AM
I have see and spoke with Larry many times when I run to the store, and I may not have much money but If I buy a dollar menu item at McDonald's I skip the fries and buy couple burgers and get 2 cups of water, then stop over and give Larry a burger and water, he always say thank you sweety, I tell him thats ok hun now you eat so you have something warm in your stomach, it's not a lot but it's something, and also find old blanket and jackets, at garage sale, for a couple bucks or ask my neighbors. Then when it get cooler, give it to him and who ever is with him. It don't take much, just a moment and some caring.

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