To protest what he called Vice Mayor Terry Turner’s changes of position on feeding the homeless, downtown resident and radio show host Phil Grande chartered a bus, filled it with homeless people and catered a dinner for them Tuesday evening.
The dinner was held directly in front of Turner’s home in the tony Cherokee Park neighborhood.
Grande has been an opponent of the homeless feedings in Selby Five Points Park, wanting to move them instead to other parts of town.
Turner also had been opposed, but Grande said at a recent one-on-one meeting, the vice mayor changed his position and said he would no longer seek to require city permits for small feedings.
“Turner flip-flopped,” said Thomas Biggs, senior producer of Grande’s radio show. “He said it’s OK to feed at certain locations. So Phil said Turner’s street could be one of those certain locations.”
Grande did not attend the stunt, and it was not clear whether Turner was home. Nobody answered a knock on his door.
Biggs said Grande’s goal was also to raise awareness about the issue of homelessness in Sarasota.
“Phil offered to buy the former Dream Center (on 18th Street), turn it into a homeless shelter and gathering place and sell it to the city for $1,” said Biggs, who added the city turned down the offer.
Grande told Resurrection House and Salvation Army he was going to provide transportation and food to anyone interested.
About 40 homeless were shuttled on a charter bus to Cherokee Drive, and they sat in a city-owned median until a Sonny’s Bar-B-Q truck arrived at about 6:30 p.m. with a complete meal for the crowd.
Some of the homeless people there said they wanted people to know they were just like everyone else.
“I felt like I’d have the chance to talk about the homeless situation,” said Leon Middleton, 58.
When told why the Cherokee Drive location was chosen for the feeding, a man who said his name was Joseph laughed, but then added, “It’s not going to work. It won’t send a message.”
This was the second time this week that Grande sent a group of homeless to set up shop in front of Turner’s house.
Monday, he paid for bus fare and food for five homeless people to go to Cherokee Drive.
Someone called police to report suspicious people on the street. When police arrived, the group of people walked away.
Biggs said Grande was planning to bus another group of homeless people Friday to an undetermined location. He said Grande was not currently targeting any other city commissioners.
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Currently 5 Responses
- PHIL FOR PRESIDENT ! HE IS MY HERO
- There has been an organized effort to solve the problem going on for years. Grande could join that effort and toss his (reported elsewhere) half million into that fund. The last meeting of that group that I went to was very well attended by many prominent people. I don't remember seeing Grande there, but he may have been. A half mil into that effort might actually do something.
- Grande supports feedings too, apparently at the city's expense with the Dream Center idea. Grande is exerting coercion to get his way with the vice mayor. He could be more honorable and run for commissioner himself instead of badgering a sitting commissioner. Then he could officially propose whatever scheme he desires and maybe some people would park themselves near his property and have a wail of a time if they disagree with his ideas.
Grande took a cheap shot. But what do expect of a radio show host (I've never heard of him) than a cheap publicity stunt!
- You obviously don’t understand what has happened. Phil has been fighting the feeding downtown because of the harm it causes to the businesses and residents. He offered the dream center as an option to help deal with the homeless problem. Phil wanted a feeding ordinance put in place to help limit the number of people at these gathering as well as require a permit. This way it can’t be done just anywhere but in the proper place. Commissioner Turner didn’t want to support this feeding ordinance due to the controversy it might cause and his support for the students at new college. What we are fighting for is to help the homeless but not harm businesses and residents in the process. Turner supports feedings so we decided what better location than in front of his house.
- So, instead of Grande taking homeless people to his own property to feed, he takes them elsewhere. What a jerk. Let him buy the Dream Center and run it himself and not impose that responsibility on the city. It's not the city's responsibility to feed or take care of anyone. Talk is cheap when someone else has to do the work.
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