The Sarasota City Commission, satisfied with the progress of its collaborative Street Team homeless outreach effort with the Salvation Army, directed staff to bring back an agreement that could keep the program in place through 2016.
In a unanimous vote at today's commission meeting, commissioners asked staff to prepare an agreement that would fund the Street Teams through September of next year, with two additional one-year extension options after that. To support the program until September 2014 — the end of the current fiscal year — the city will pay an additional $13,500.
Before the vote, representatives from the city and Salvation Army presented commissioners with an update on the Street Team program, which began in March 2012 and is set to expire after next February. The program is designed to help volunteers develop experience and skills that will assist them in the search for a job.
According to data from today's meeting, participants in the program have volunteered over 14,000 hours, performing tasks like collecting trash or cleaning graffiti in the downtown and Newtown areas.
Since its inception, 193 people have participated in the program. 88 of those people have gained employment, and 87 have obtained stable housing. The Street Teams have seen more activity recently, with 102 people participating in the 8 month period from March to October 2013. 39 of those people have obtained employment and stable housing.
Several commissioners voiced their enthusiasm regarding the success of the program. Vice Mayor Willie Shaw and Commissioners Susan Chapman and Suzanne Atwell praised the program for its effectiveness in mitigating street homelessness.
Mayor Shannon Snyder added that, considering the price the city pays for the additional level of service the Street Team volunteers provide, the extension would be a no-brainer from a fiscal standpoint.
"It looks like a bargain," Snyder said. "It's really cost effective, and they do a great job."
Contact David Conway at [email protected].