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agency," said Marbut. "They might have to go through different needs, [post-traumatic stress disorder], chronic homelessness, fami- lies — all have different pathways." "People call your program not a shelter, but a 'jail-ter,' a shelter feeling more like a correc- tions facility," noted Chapman. "Is this a jail diversion program?" "There is no more cost-effective program, even a traditional shelter. Pinellas Safe Harbor [in Clearwater] is a revolutionary program," said Marbut. "If you are getting case man- agement, some medical and dental care, job training and placement, it is a starting point to get you into other programs. You don't get this under a bridge or in jail." A SIMPLE CHOICE Marbut calls it the "velvet hammer." Once a come-as-you-are shelter is operating, police officers or deputies can confront an ordinance violator with two choices: jail or shelter. "You step up enforcement on people who refuse to obey the law," said Paul Sutton. As a retired city police officer, he has dealt with homeless- ness and vagrancy for 30 years in Sarasota. "If you take people to services, there's a chance they may accept help." The chances improve if the other head of the "velvet hammer" is used — stop playing their game. Stop giving panhandlers money; stop mass feedings; stop the giveaways. Marbut says these acts of "kindness" perpetuate homelessness and actually further vagrancy with positive reinforcement. Giving a puppy a treat after it bites you is not a good way to train a dog. In a nutshell, that is Marbut's plan. Stop the giveaways and move the "visible homeless" off the streets and into a facility offering case management, with referrals to the types of help each individual may need. Given the choice, said Sutton, "Ninety-nine percent will pick the shelter, and that's also where the ser- vices are." "With a shelter, we will touch people we wouldn't touch otherwise," noted Pam Merlet, Sarasota County's Health and Human Services behavioral policy coordinator. "But you can't make people do anything they don't want to do." So far the skepticism of two Sarasota city commissioners has not slowed down the local shelter process. To use federal money to build a come-as-you-are shelter, a site must be environmentally sound, and it will take about another month for the analyses of the proposed locations on East and Osprey avenues in Sarasota to be completed. One or both sites may fail to pass scrutiny, requiring examination of other potential locations. But ultimately, the question will be faced: Do something or not? Howls for action are mounting daily from downtown merchants, who fear for their lives and livelihoods. With the heat of summer coming, there are predic- tions of violence. The "visible homeless" are more visible than ever. If a shelter does not go up on East Avenue or Osprey Avenue, then where will it be built? If not Marbut's plan, then what? Cities all over Florida are facing the same fun- damental question: Is it now a public duty to provide shelter for the shelterless? % Sarasota News Leader May 23, 2014 Page 73

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