Sarasota News Leader


Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 99

Sarasota News Leader May 24, 2013 Page 24 growing at a faster pace than the overall city population. The most visible homeless are those downtown. Well after the peak of "tourist season," the Salvation Army on May 21 housed 178 people overnight, only two shy of filling all the 180 beds available at the 10th Street facility. In reality, the homeless are everywhere. The Celery Fields northeast of downtown, Nokomis, Venice and North Port all have clandestine homeless camps. The only facilities and organizations focused on aiding the homeless in Sarasota County are in the City of Sarasota. So it is no surprise the "clients" are most visible in the city. They do not have a spokesman or a public relations advocate. Without some insight, understanding their plight is akin to blind men describing an elephant. 'THIS PERPETUAL CIRCUMSTANCE …' Homelessness is rootlessness, even in a community you might call home. No place is permanent. "People on the street are engaged in this perpetual circumstance of moving," said City Manager Tom Barwin. He spoke to a long-standing focus group on Tuesday afternoon, May 21. Meeting since 2009, it is an informal, unappointed collection of caregivers, law enforcement officials and the homeless. It reports to no one and is exempt from Florida's Government in the Sunshine Laws. The members spoke candidly about what they knew, hoped and feared. And they let this reporter sit in. City Manager Tom Barwin sought collaboration from the Sarasota County Commission in February to deal with the homeless. Photo by Norman Schimmel sheriff staffs it, and to be blunt, it is for the losers — the dopers, the psychos, the sociopaths, the dangerous ones. It is the brainchild of Robert Marbut, of Marbut Consulting. Another facility, run by Catholic Charities, is called Pinellas Hope. It is self-described as "the county's primary way station for the homeless," and it encompasses 13 acres and receives more than $1 million in public funding annually. About 800 people go through the facility each year. It allows no dopers, no pedophiles and no alcohol. Background checks are required before people can enter Pinellas Hope. The Tampa Bay Times wrote, "Organizers say they help move many into long-term housing, but their statistics show that nearly just as many — four of 10 residents — are likely to get kicked out, land in jail, or simply disappear." Marbut was active in Clearwater a year ago under a $16,000 contract, where he urged a Much of the discussion centered on two Pi- crackdown on lax police enforcement, public nellas County homeless facilities. One is adja- restrooms and public feeding of the homeless. cent to the county jail, called Safe Harbor. The There are efforts to bring Marbut to Sarasota.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Sarasota News Leader - 05/24/2013