National expert tells Sarasota leaders to stop enabling homeless

7:02 PM, Nov 25, 2013   |    comments
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Sarasota, Florida -- The Sarasota community is turning to a national expert to help with its homeless problem and Monday that expert said the community is helping, but in the wrong way.

"We've got to stop the free ride," said Dr. Robert Marbut.

In a 55-page report Marbut prepared on the homeless issue in Sarasota, he explained to Sarasota City and County Commissioners it's time to stop enabling the homeless and start engaging them.

Marbut said feeding, clothing and sheltering the homeless for a night is not the solution but part of the problem. 

"It doesn't do anything to help homeless community by doing that. It hurts the fabric of your community," he argued.

Among Marbut's list of a dozen recommendations is to build emergency shelters that run 24/7 modeled after one in Pinellas County. The shelters would offer medical care, mental health and drug treatment plus job placement services in exchange for food and lodging. Clients would stay for up to a week and would have rules to follow.

"This is not a place to hang out on the outside and around the building -- it's about bringing people into programs. The best way to end homelessness to get people into these programs so they can get the help and care needed to get them off the streets," he told commissioners.

Surveys show there are 348 homeless families and 637 children in Sarasota County. Marbut is suggesting two shelters for families, one in North and South County.

The survey also estimates there are 1,460 homeless adults. Marbut is proposing a shelter for them in North County where 86 percent of homeless adults live but that location is controversial.

Barbara Langston lives in District 1 in the North County and says, "Everything that any other neighborhood doesn't want, they dump it in District 1. District 1 is not a dumping ground, it's time these services be extended throughout the county."

Marbut's proposal calls for the adult shelter to be run by the Sarasota Sheriff's Office. The shelter would house other agencies that serve the homeless creating a campus-like area with one managing system.

"Everyone has to work together to move from an enabling environment to an engaging one," he says.

Marbut will present his final report to county leaders Nov. 29.

To read the Marbut's 55-page report, click here.

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