Jim Doyle and Michael Saunders: Report outlines homeless plan

Homeless people gather at Five Points Park in downtown Sarasota. Herald-Tribune Staff photo / Dan Wagner
Homeless people gather at Five Points Park in downtown Sarasota. Herald-Tribune Staff photo / Dan Wagner

By Jim Doyle and Michael Saunders, Guest Columnists
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

As Sarasota business owners, we are finally optimistic that a long-needed plan to strategically address the challenge of the chronic homeless in our community is taking shape.

For over five years, despite well-intentioned efforts, we have felt the ongoing social and economic impact of over 1,000 individuals who remain homeless.

City and county leaders have both understood that our chronic homeless situation is a huge problem, but an agreement on approach proved to be elusive.

The plight of these individuals seen camping on private property, on street corners and in all manner of public areas is not just an uncomfortable sight but a mark on our community. It is common to hear from new visitors their shock at so many homeless in our small downtown and elsewhere in our community.

For the long-term health of our community, it is long overdue for us to rise above our past failures and make a lasting difference.

To this end we are very encouraged by the initial positive reactions from both the city and the county to the comprehensive recommendations for a framework for short- and long-term solutions to the homeless issue outlined in the Florida Housing Coalition report and presented recently. The county and city administrators should be congratulated on setting a new tone of collaboration with this very positive step.

The Florida Housing Coalition report, authored by Dr. Susan Pourciau, outlines a series of suggestions that, implemented together, give us the road map to deal with this challenge and ultimately make real progress toward a long-term solution.

The suggested plan provides 50 emergency/crisis, “low-entry” beds for those in greatest need. Included in the plan is a process for assessment and “rapid rehousing” or “permanent supportive housing” within 30 days.

We have a game-changing opportunity which we must embrace.

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