Anthony Holloway, St. Petersburg’s Chief of Police, wants people scrutinizing his management of the city’s Power of Change donations to “look at the big picture.”
Reports that the SPPD failed to use over $9,000 intended for the city’s homeless population first surfaced in July. The money stems from St. Petersburg’s Power of Change collection stations – an initiative encouraging residents and visitors to deposit spare change into repurposed yellow parking meters rather than directly handing it to people on the street.
Holloway briefly addressed the criticism during an update at the Aug. 18 city council meeting, stating the department formed partnerships instead of spending the money. In a subsequent interview with the Catalyst, he expressed a desire for people to focus on what the SPPD was able to accomplish without the funding.
“So, you’re saying that we’re hoarding $9,000, but let’s look and see what the police department really has done for the community,” said Holloway. “If we just went off that $9,000, then we wouldn’t have done all the things that we were able to do with our clients in the city.”
Despite not using the money, Holloway said the department still doubled and tripled its homeless services. During the Aug. 18 meeting, Councilmember Lisset Hanewicz noted that SPPD’s Police Assisting the Homeless (PATH) program increased its contacts by 248%.
Holloway explained that his officers could have quickly exhausted the money and decided there was nothing more they could do but instead found other ways to bolster homeless initiatives. Since 2019, the machines collected $11,497 in change, with SPPD disbursing $1,716.
He said $9,000 would last officers tasked with helping the homeless a week, maybe two, and believes they thought “outside of the box” by saving most of the money and increasing community partnerships to make the program effective.
“I give the men and women credit because they said, ‘look, this is not going to be enough money, this is not going to enough resources,’” relayed Holloway. “‘So, we need to go out there and find bigger better resources,’ and that’s what they did.
“Think about how much money really was spent to help people on the street and help this program work.”
Despite the recent scrutiny, Holloway has no regrets. He said the department provided everything the Power of Change program was supposed to help fund and to spend the money unnecessarily would have been bad fiscal stewardship. The money was available if officers needed it, he added.
They didn’t, however, and Holloway said he relayed that to city administrators during budget discussions in February. They decided then, he said, to transfer money collected from the program to another department – before any of the reports surfaced.
Holloway reiterated that the city’s Community Affairs Department would now oversee the program, and the Veterans Social Services Division would receive the remaining funding.
Meanwhile, the SPPD will continue expanding efforts to address homelessness through the PATH initiative, said Holloway. He explained the program not only helps those experiencing a crisis but also provides relief for business owners unsure of how to deal with panhandlers.
Officers, said Holloway, utilize the community partnerships to offer food, bus passes and personal hygiene products and help those living on the street find shelter and receive medical services. He believes that increasing interactions with the city’s homeless population improves the likelihood of providing long-term solutions.
“So, this unit will stay in place,” said Holloway.