ST. PETERSBURG — The 2020 plan to tackle poverty in south St. Petersburg calls for $170 million in public and private investment over the next five years.
Its goal is to reduce the number of people living at or below the federal poverty level by one-third and create 5,000 jobs by 2020.
The plan took a small but symbolic step forward Thursday when St. Petersburg City Council members gave tentative approval to fund a $72,000 pilot program to help families struggling with issues including addiction, domestic violence and extreme poverty.
Organizers of the plan originally wanted the funding to hire a resource director to go after grants and other funding ahead of its formal launch date of Oct. 1.
The request was changed after Mayor Rick Kriseman agreed to assign four city administrators including a grant writer, lobbyist and a member of the city’s economic development team to provide help to the group.
“We get that resource development juice, but we also have a chance to pilot a major piece of the plan here in Pinellas County,” said Gypsy Gallardo, publisher of the Power Broker magazine and one of the developers of the plan.
The pilot could help up to 40 families, providing a one-stop resource for them to get assistance instead of dealing with several agencies. That could include help for children who are below grade level or for a mother dealing with a violent partner. Workers on the program would stay in touch with families for up to two years.
South St. Petersburg was identified in Pinellas County’s 2012 Economic Impact of Poverty report as the largest of five concentrations of extreme poverty that account for almost half of the county’s low-income population.
The 2020 plan includes economic development partly spurred by the creation of special tax districts to pay for infrastructure improvements, job training, employment opportunities and the building of new homes. It also includes an effort to make more social services available.
Plan organizers have raised $63,000 from private donations and plan to hire a director in March. Eventually, it will be formed as a nonprofit group.
Deputy Mayor Kanika Jelks-Tomalin said using city staff is just a stop-gap measure and, as the plan gathers momentum, the group will need more formal support.
“At some point as a community we will have to agree to that and invest in that,” she said.
In other action, the city council gave tentative approval to a $50,000 funding request for the Skyway Marina District to hire a coordinator for projects and to seek federal and state grants that could pay for new streetlights, sidewalks and sign improvements in the area that is looking to emulate Grand Central District and establish its own branding.