St. Pete residents worried Bartlett Park becoming tent city for homeless

Pinellas County

Residents living in south St. Petersburg say Bartlett Park has become an unwanted haven for the homeless.

Residents claim since city officials took away bus shelters at Williams Park, homeless people have trickled south to find shelter at Bartlett Park.

“The conditions are deteriorating,” said St. Pete resident Michael Blackthorne.

Blackthorne complained that the homeless set up tents on the island off 18th Avenue South and leave behind trash, needles, feces and clothes.

He said they even take baths in the lake.

“I walk my dog early in the morning about 6, 6:30, literally seeing every bench with somebody sleeping on it,” he said.

They say Bartlett used to be a nice park where people walked and brought their dogs. They’re concerned because children play nearby at the park’s recreation center.

“There are a lot of kids around the neighborhood,” Blackthorne said.

Blackthorne said that one of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s campaign promises was to revitalize the 4th Street south corridor.

“I voted for him because this kind of thing was going to get cleaned up,” said Blackthorne.

Neighborhood Affairs Administrator Robert Gerdes said the mayor is sticking to his campaign promises and they are aware of the complaints at Bartlett Park.

He said they have provided assistance and dedicated money to help with programs, such as Rapid Re-housing.

Crews are working to remove nuisance vegetation and have increased the amount of trash pick up at the park.

The city has also enlisted the help of police to break up any illegal activity at the park.

“We’re working very closely with the police department. They are engaged and we hope to mitigate those adverse impacts as much as possible,” said Gerdes.

Blackthorne said it’s not enough.

“It’s not helping the homeless. This is doing them no good. It’s actually a disservice to them.”

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