Sarasota News Leader

01/03/2014

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LOOKING BACK YEAR IN REVIEW: MAY Homeless people sit on the sidewalk outside Five Points Park while the park is undergoing maintenance. Photo by Norman Schimmel A local consortium called Digital WiFi Solutions LLC is wirelessly wiring up downtown with wi-fi repeaters on store roofs. If you look at the top of Epicure restaurant at the corner of Palm Avenue and Main Street, you will see a wee gray dome. And if you fire up your smart phone or wi-fi tablet, you will already see a signal called Digital Sarasota or Free Hotspot. Several notable locals are involved in the initiative. Tony Driscoll, Peter Fanning, John Moran, Rich Swier Jr. and Jesse Biter are all working to get the operation running. During the May 4, Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations (CCNA) meeting, City Manager Tom Barwin says that based on national averages from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, given the city's population of 60,000, Sarasota should have 132 street people. "But on any given night, the Salvation Army will host up to 250 people, and there will be 150 more on the streets," he says. Barwin calls the 400 "street people," a term the "street people" reject during the City Commission meeting the following Monday evening. Deborah Hines tells the commissioners and staff, "We're not all street people. … We're just homeless." Whatever you call them, they are here in a concentration more than twice the national average, Barwin tells the CCNA. Exacerbating the problem is their density. Barwin says they are concentrated in a one-square-mile area, and they are responsible for a number of crimes far out of proportion to their fraction in society. Barwin adds that he asked the Police Department to cross-index robberies, burglaries and aggravated assaults in 2012 and the first quarter of 2013 with transient status. The department staff told him that 13.3 percent of the

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