Marbut report recommends city homeless shelter


Marbut report recommends city homeless shelter


Date: November 21, 2013
by: David Conway | News Editor



The first recommendation in a draft of a long-awaited report by Robert Marbut, a consultant hired by Sarasota County and the city of Sarasota to address regional homelessness issues, has nothing to do with the hot-button topic of the location of a future shelter.

Instead, Marbut focused on a philosophical change above all else.

“The entire Sarasota County Community needs to move from a Culture of Enablement to a Culture of Engagement in all aspects,” Marbut wrote.

From service agencies to residents to the homeless themselves, Marbut said the region should focus on increasing street graduation rates, rather than serving the homeless. Handouts of food and money to people who are panhandling are well intentioned, Marbut said, but they only enable homelessness. Donations of food and money should instead be directed to high-performing service agencies, he wrote.

Marbut later gets to the recommendation likely to generate the most attention: a 24/7 emergency homeless shelter, tenatively named Sarasota Safe Harbor, that would be the main intake location for homeless individuals in the county. The report states the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office should serve as the lead agency in coordinating the shelter, which would become the center of county homelessness services.

“All adult services county-wide should ‘spoke off’ of this main hub,” the report states. “Once operational, all county-wide street feeding programs, food pantry programs and day-time service centers for adult homeless men and women need to be relocated within the (shelter).”

He outlines four “optimal and available” sites for the shelter, all of which are located just north of downtown Sarasota. The report lists a 2.14-acre city-owned lot at 1330 N. Osprey Ave. as the “best overall viable location,” with the potential to expand to include a UPS-owned property at 1530 N. Osprey Ave.

Other optimal and available sites named are located at 1003 N. Washington Blvd., 1121 Lewis Ave., and 1800 East Ave. Six other sites are listed as “possibly viable and/or possibly available,” all of which are located in the city of Sarasota, and all but one of which is located north of 10th Street.

Two city commissioners, Susan Chapman and Vice-Mayor Willie Shaw, have been outspoken in the past about their opposition to a shelter within the city of Sarasota. Shaw, in particular, has said he thinks the north Sarasota district he represents shouldn't be burdened with a homeless shelter. In his report, Marbut suggests officials and residents should move beyond the instinct to say "Not In My Back Yard."

"The main goal is to pick the site that is in the best overall interest of Sarasota and one that promotes the operational success of Sarasota Safe Harbor,"  the report states. "The hope is the site selection will not get bogged down by NIMBY’ism nor political rivalries."

Other recommendations included in the report are an emergency intake portal for families with children in both North and South County; two different master case management systems for adults and families with children; and a standardization of homeless ordinances throughout the county. The full draft report can be found on the city website.

Marbut will formally present the draft report on Monday at County Commission meetings at 9 a.m. in Venice and 2 p.m. in Sarasota. The former will be a joint meeting with the North Port City Commission and Venice City Council, and the latter will be a joint meeting with the Sarasota City Commission.

Contact David Conway at


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Currently 2 Responses

  • 1.
  • Mabuts plan is basically sound, but only a fool would believe he is politically neutral.
    He contradicts himself with suggesting one means of engagement as adopting ordinances but yet he warns us not to "criminalize homelessness”. Sarasota has unjustly been given that tag by local ACLU "lawyers? " for implementing ordinances that stop enablement. Secondly NYMBISM obviously referrers to the single-family neighborhoods in North Sarasota County that have serious crime problems how counter productive of a consultant who touts an ability to achieve consensus to use this them vs. use style of rhetoric. I don't think this is how one sets the tone for community buy in. There are ILW districts in North County that might not be adversely affected nor offer push back on locating the facility there, this should be put on the table. However it would be a “Sarasota Wet Facility” should function, if substance abuse rehab is part of your goal then part of treatment is to remove the patient from the adverse environment that perpetuates that behavior not keep them close by. My fear is decisions have been made and this plan will not be fully vetted or understood by the public before they commit to purchasing land and enough funding is achieved to implement programs properly.
  • O C Crandall
    Sat 23rd Nov 2013
    at 7:04am
  • 2.
  • Aside from the obvious problem of Dr. Marbut's draft report not quantifying or placing at least a ballpark figure on any of his recommendations, the name calling NIMBY comment on the bottom on page 28 should be omitted. Unless of course the 800 lb. gorilla in the room is finally going to be addressed; the racist nature of all the sites recommended as well as the politics on the City Commission mentioned in that paragraph.

    I find it hard to believe that in all of Sarasota City and County the only sites suitable for a homeless wet camp are in areas surrounded and occupied primarily by single family homes of minorities who also happen to be represented by the only minority member of the City Commission. I live north of Fruitville Road within two blocks of the 285 bed Salvation Army that already houses homeless and will remain there according to the plan. I hope Willie Shaw is willing to compromise a little on his position that no more homeless services should be in North Sarasota by accepting Dr. Marbut's recommendation for over half of homeless families to be served in a North Sarasota Family Intake and temporary housing site. With those two service sites, people in North Sarasota will be doing their fair share to help homeless families and singles.

    To suggest that the only other suitable sites for a wet camp for addicted homeless are in downtown North Sarasota is ludicrous at best, racially motivated at worst and simply not providing a good basis for compromising anything. It's ramming another service site into the heart of the largely black and Hispanic neighborhoods of single family homes north of Fruitville Road.

    A compromise would be to find sites in other sections of Sarasota, represented by white majority City Commissioners stepping up to do their fair share or by placing the wet camp for the addicted outside of the over-stimulating city limits. I'm not simply being too sensitive to the pervasive racial inequalities in Sarasota, nor am I being paranoid with the following observation.

    The City of Sarasota has a very expensive, can't-really-man-it-now with police cutbacks set of video surveillance toys. I have seen the operation and sat right there watching North Sarasota minority guys make their street drug deals close up enough to see their zits and watch them pick their nose. So over the past several years, we have the staffing cutbacks on local police. Then the Sheriff tries to do a hostile take over of the local police department and now that hasn't worked. Finally we have a proposal that favors putting all the addicted single homeless adults in a section of town (particularly the government site) under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff. This is the prime opportunity to play with the video equipment and monitor every movement of every person at the camp 24/7.

    The people selling this proposal are finger pointing and calling NIMBY at people north of Fruitville Road while confident that the real NIMBY neighborhoods and county locations without the easy camera mount towers will prevail. It's a very sad day in America when people who are trying to do good things are chastised for their enabling while those who have no regard for privacy are assisted to herd people together in a place that suits their snooping.

    Well, I hope it doesn't work. I hope there are enough good people with enough common sense to pressure the politicians into putting this wet camp where it will do the most good-outside of downtown Sarasota. where those who already have misfortune will not also loose every last spec of their privacy.
  • Dale Orlando
    Fri 22nd Nov 2013
    at 9:44am
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