Sarasota Co. tables homeless shelter search

Sarasota, Florida -- Plans for a "come as you are" shelter to help the homeless in Sarasota have been tabled.

Sarasota County commissioners voted Tuesday morning to discontinue the search for a shelter after the city decided to do the same last month.

The city and the county hired Robert Marbut, a national expert on the homeless, last October to help resolve the homeless issue.

Commissioners say they will continue to follow the consultant's other recommendations but not before some harsh words for the city by one county commissioner.

READ:Consultant's recommendations for Sarasota

"Their goal right now to arrest their way out of the problem or force fit them into the Salvation Army, which is a great program but it can't handle the situation," says Commissioner Joseph Barbetta.

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"We're not putting our heads in the sand and doing nothing," says Commissioner Carolyn Mason.

The commissioners say they will not continue to put money into searching for a shelter if the city does not agree it's a solution to the homelessness in the area.

"The city is a major player in this whole issue and it's my hope they will reconsider coming back to the table," says Mason.

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County officials say 80 percent of the adult homeless population is in the city, 20 percent in the county.

The City of Sarasota is focusing on helping homeless veterans and the using Homeless Outreach Teams to help other adults who are homeless.

The county is addressing homeless families by creating intake centers with resources and housing in North and South County.

Wayne Appleby, county homeless coordinator, says that without both the county and the city working together a shelter would not work.

Since the Homeless Outreach Team restarted in early June, 54 homeless individuals have been helped and are no longer living on the streets. A breakdown by the numbers:

· 35 – military veterans

· 8 – non-veterans

· 11 – reunited with family (Arkansas, Ohio, Washington and other places)

The city is working with Jewish Children & Family Services, Salvation Army and Catholic Services to make these connections. It's a coordinated effort which, in just 2.5 months, is showing results.


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