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A “Low-Demand” Homeless Shelter Relieves Jail Crowding: Pinellas County’s Safe Harbor
National Jail Exchange

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By Lt. Sean McGillen and Chief Deputy Dan Simovich, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, and Dr. Robert G. Marbut, Jr.


Across the United States, jails often function as the largest homeless shelter in their communities, which dramatically exacerbates jail crowding problems.

“Low-demand” homeless shelters (also known as “first-step” programs or “courtyards”) have proved very effective in reducing the number of chronic homeless and serial inebriates in general jail populations.

Low-demand shelters give agencies a much more positive enforcement alternative for “quality of life” ordinance violations, create major cost savings by avoiding the use of jail beds, and when operated with a holistic programming approach, significantly reduce the recidivism rate of homeless individuals as well as helping them find steady housing.

A new first-step homeless shelter in Pinellas County takes this concept a step further. In a partnership with the Florida Department of Corrections, the county’s Safe Harbor facility is also used as the first step for prison inmates who are re-entering the community.

This article discusses the principles that make low-demand homeless shelters work, tells the story of how the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office established Safe Harbor, and highlights its benefits to the jail and the broader community.

Posted Thu, Oct 25 2012 11:31 AM by Susan Powell
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