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Siesta Key Thursday, Apr. 5, 2012 5 years ago

Community's plan to end homelessness debated

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness officials hoping for a firm monetary commitment from the Sarasota County Commission for its 10-year plan to eliminate homelessness in Sarasota County left the Commission Chambers disappointed March 27. However, they did receive commission support of their plan.
Richard Martin, executive director of Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, unveiled five broad objectives and new performance objectives. Martin then asked the commission to adopt the plan and asked for a three-year commitment from the county for a full-time employee to act as a liaison for the plan.

“Our intention is not to compete, but to combine our resources and work with other local groups who we see as our partners,” Martin said.

Adam Tebrugge, co-chairman of Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness’ 10-year plan, asked commissioners to be the first government body in the area to adopt the plan. He stressed that the adoption wouldn’t mean the commission agrees with every aspect of the plan.

“It doesn’t mean you will be on the hook for the plan,” Tebrugge said. “What it means is you recognize we have come to you with a blueprint on which we can move forward. With adoption, we can continue to develop partnerships.”

Tebrugge also asked that one county employee be working solely on the homeless issue.

But commissioners balked at adopting the plan and spending what they estimated would cost $150,000 or more for the next three years to dedicate a full-time position toward the homeless issue.

“I’m afraid we’re doing this backward,” County Commission Chairwoman Christine Robinson said. “You’re asking us for a full-time position with only a ($50,000) grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Why don’t you have other dollars secured yet?”

Martin said more funding was on the way and asked the commission to adopt the plan at some point.

Commissioner Jon Thaxton suggested and received unanimous support for a motion to accept the plan and community-wide support needed for implementation.

The commission also agreed to make Administrator Randall Reid the point person for the homelessness plan and said he would participate in a future county working group on the matter.

Martin told the commission the partnership plans to go after more federal funding.

But commissioners expressed concern the Suncoast Partnership would be competing for funds with groups such as the Public Housing Authority.

“What we do already with human-services grants through places like the Salvation Army is in the $8 million to $12 million range,” said Commissioner Joe Barbetta. “We are hitting all those agencies that deal with homelessness issues, and let’s not duplicate those things here.”

In December, the partnership unveiled the first portion of a new 10-year plan to eradicate homelessness in Sarasota County that includes working to:

• Streamline county-wide systems to develop, fund, implement and monitor programs that address homelessness, poverty and economic stability;

• Meet immediate needs of the homeless;

• Develop community-wide intervention programs to identify and stabilize housing for people and families at risk of homelessness;

• Use proactive, cost-effective ways to provide levels and steps of housing to support people toward permanent housing;

• Cultivate economic stability by creating steps toward self-sufficiency, permanent housing and financial stability.

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