ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - A self-proclaimed homeless advocate, Rev. Bruce Wright is quick to criticize the policies of City Hall. But he's more methodical in defending the spending of his Refuge Ministries.
At Thursday night's weekly feeding in front of City Hall, Wright brought just a scant offering of two pizzas and several dozen cans of soda. There were more than 50 homeless looking for food.
"It's been hard lately," Wright said of a drop in donations to the non-profit.
However, more than half of the ministry's reported $2,200 in donations in April went toward paying Wright for his homeless counseling.
He said he collects $1,200/mo. base for his work and when donations are stronger, collects up to $1,600.
But documents from his 2010 divorce show he claimed $2,667 in monthly income from Refuge Ministries, or $32,000 annually.
"That was a good month," Wright said, repeating that his income has dropped significantly since then. "
They just pay directly for my expenses. It's not like I get a paycheck or anything."
According to the same documents, his monthly expenses included $500 for gas, over $800 for meals, $80 for "gifts," $250 for a cell phone, and $200 for entertainment.
That money could have gone toward feeding the homeless, but Wright defends his (variable) salary.
"We've never said every dollar we take goes to the homeless. We've said every dollar goes toward the work we do."
His income could also have gone toward his two children, who are due more than $1,500 in child support payments.
Wright has skipped so many payments the state took away his driver's license in January. He was still behind the wheel Thursday night.
"He has never been part of the solution," said St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster. "He spends a lot of time advocating for the homeless lifestyle...St. Petersburg is trying to get the homeless off the streets."
Wright says he conducts his counseling and ministerial duties out of Norwood Baptist Church (1818 29th Ave. N, St. Petersburg). But a representative from the church said Wright merely utilizes an office space they lend him for free and the church had no knowledge of what Wright does with donations.
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