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Sarasota Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016 6 years ago

County changes stance on homeless shelter efforts

Sarasota County said that staff will not do any more work on a “come as you are” shelter unless urged to do so by the community and city.
by: Jack Short Staff Writer

Sarasota County changed its stance on a proposed adult homeless shelter after three proposed locations for a shelter were deemed ineligible by commissioners at a Jan. 12 meeting.

Wayne Applebee, Sarasota County homelessness services director, said the county was unable to come to terms with owners of three proposed sites in north Sarasota. The use of those sites for a "come as you are" (CAYA) shelter faced considerable pushback from nearby residents, but Applebee said it was disagreements over appraisals and other cost concerns that ultimately foundered negotiations.

The county’s real estate appraisal and the owner’s asking price for one of the proposed shelter sites varied by as much $420,000. Additionally, two nearby residential parcels would have required $1 million in infrastructure upgrades to bring water and sewer to the sites.

“There were financial and logistics issues all the way around,” said Commissioner Christine Robinson, who voted, along with the remainder of the Commission, to cease consideration of purchasing the sites. 

Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said he thinks the county should reevaluate the need for a CAYA shelter.

“Does it need to be built if the city is paying the Salvation Army to provide the same services?” he said. “If that’s the case, one has to reevaluate the need…”

Applebee said that decreased homeless counts and increased services provided by other agencies, such as the Community Foundation of Sarasota, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the Salvation Army and the city caused staff to reevaluate the county’s role in shelter efforts.

“At this point,” Applebee said, “staff will not be working on the shelter concept at all.”

Nor will it in the future, he added, unless the community asks for it. That could include the city, business owners, and county residents. Until that request materializes, he said, “... we are not going to be leading a shelter-concept- or shelter-site discussion any longer.”

Robinson said she doesn’t think that will preclude a county-led shelter initiative.

“I think the community wants to see relief in whatever way they can from this issue,” she said. “It’s a quality of life issue. It’s a business issue. They want to make sure we get it done as a whole.”

The commission had allocated $1 million for due diligence on a shelter last year. Applebee said he did not have details about how much remained in that fund, but that no decision had been made on how to use the remaining funds or whether to release the remainder to the general fund.

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