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Siesta Key Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015 6 years ago

County defends possible shelter locations

Homeless don’t commit more crimes than people who own homes, according to Sarasota County representatives.
by: Jack Short Staff Writer

Homeless people don’t commit violent crimes at higher rates than any other population, according to Sarasota County officials, responding to controversy surrounding its proposed homeless shelter.

Sarasota County Homeless Services director Wayne Applebee questioned the perception, at a Dec. 10 press junket, that any area in which it places a shelter will become more dangerous.

“There’s data and stats that will indicate that homeless individuals do not commit violent crimes at a higher rate than any other population,” Applebee said.

Three parcels along Myrtle Street and Butler Avenue, just outside city limits, that the county identified as possible sites for a homeless shelter have brought the county under fire for their proximity to schools.

Applebee stressed that proposed sites for the county’s shelter for homeless adults are not under contract, and said the goal would be to reach that stage on one or more of the three properties before addressing community concerns. He said any shelter is at least a year away from completion. 

“These folks we’re talking about are living in our community now,” he said. “They can walk by schools all day long.”

He added that the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office had agreed to increase patrols in the area as well as running the shelter with safety of the community firmly in mind.

Bill Spitler, Sarasota County Sheriff's Office planning and services director, bristled at the idea that homeless individuals are more likely to pose a danger to communities, saying that most homeless individuals’ criminal records consist of offences like public urination or public intoxication, which are the direct result of homelessness.

“Only by the grace of God aren’t you one of these people,” he said.


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