Lately there has been a fair bit of media coverage on the issue of homelessness in Sarasota and the best way to manage it …
Starting back in 2013, Sarasota spent tens of thousands of dollars—and earmarked hundreds of thousands more—agreeing to and then rejecting a solution that offered promise for reducing the city’s street homeless.
Dr. Robert Marbut was hired to complete an analysis of the homeless services gap in Sarasota County and the cities within. At the culmination of the analysis Dr. Marbut presented the County with a 55 page PDF of findings and action plan recommendations commonly referred to as the “12-Point Plan.” The plan broke out the different populations of people who are homeless and gave recommendations on how to best serve them.
Immediately the county’s homeless services director, Wayne Applebee, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and several local social service providers including Harvest House Transitional Centers went to work to implement six of the recommendations that would serve the chronically homeless family population.
At the time, plans to fulfill the “come as you are shelter” recommendation were in the works. This shelter would accept homeless people who might not otherwise be taken by other shelters that usually require sobriety and participation in programs. This type of shelter would give the city more legal leeway in enforcing quality of life ordinances, allowing it to prohibit the chronically homeless from congregating or storing their belonging on the sidewalks. During a city commission meeting last July, the group decided not to move forward with the recommendation.
“We chose a great deal of what Dr. Marbut proposed, but there was at least one item that we chose not to accept, because we found that the proposal that we had wasn’t the right fit for the city of Sarasota.” says Commissioner Shannon Synder.
Last month Dr. Marbut presented a report card to the County regarding the progress from the last two years. He described the systems we have serving families, including our Family Haven at Harvest House, as the best in the nation, calling them “fabulously successful” and giving them an A+ score, but our communities failure to establish a “come-as-you-are” emergency shelter has had a negative impact on the other five recommendations.
The solution to the homeless issue is to view each individual within the homeless population as unique, and in so doing, properly address his/her situation in such a way that is in accordance with his/her vision of happiness. Individuals need a community network that is able to supply the needs of a wide variety of services that are available to bring them from the state of homelessness into self-sufficiency.
Not every individual chooses to be homeless. Due to the downturn in the economy, many homeless individuals and families in Sarasota turn to the streets and shelters because it’s their only option. As we work to provide more jobs and more educational opportunities for our community, we are also working on solutions to get those displaced back on their feet. If you are interested in getting involved with Harvest House and learning more about our programs to serve the homeless, I invite you to contact us here.