St. Pete making progress with legions of homeless

By MITCH STACY | September 5, 2011 | 11:50 AM EDT

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — St. Petersburg has struggled for years with some of the most rampant homelessness in the country.

But it wasn't until this summer that downtown residents and visitors started seeing some progress. The once-ubiquitous crowd of homeless hanging out and sleeping all over downtown streets has now dwindled to just a handful.

City officials are crediting strict enforcement of vagrancy ordinances and the opening of a large shelter complex where homeless people can eat, get some sleep and get plugged into services they need to get off the streets.

The architect of the system is Robert Marbut, who was hired as a consultant by the city of St. Petersburg after directing the opening of a similar shelter in San Antonio. That complex has been credited with cutting street homelessness in half.