What happened to a chronically homeless Sarasota man?
If you’ve walked down lower Main Street in the past decade, you probably knew Michael Smith, even if you didn’t know him by name.
Michael was face of what we have come to call Sarasota’s “homeless problem.” During his 20 or more years of living on the street, he’d racked up more than 100 arrests, almost all of them related to his homelessness — trespassing, petty theft, lodging. Inevitably he would be released, returning to the sidewalks of the town where he grew up as a Golden Gloves boxer.
On cold days you could find him in the doorway of a closed business, wrapped in a foul-smelling blanket; in summer, he might be sprawled across an empty bench without a shirt on. He didn’t ask for money or food, but people gave him both. Delusional, cognitively challenged and — other than offending the sensibilities or noses of some passersby — harmless, law enforcement eventually stopped arresting him, knowing it would only perpetuate a cycle they couldn’t halt.
Michael’s presence was so predictable that when, about eight months ago, he disappeared, people started speculating about what had happened to him.