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Sarasota Monday, Nov. 16, 2015 5 years ago

SHIFTS homeless program may expand

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Sarasota County staff will ask commissioners for $300,000 to double the beds at a transitional housing program.
by: Jack Short Staff Writer

At its Nov. 17 meeting, the Sarasota County Commission will consider adding 10 beds to the Sheriff’s Housing Initiative Facilitating Transient Services program.

The addition of 10 beds would double SHIFTS’s capacity. The program is designed to bring homeless individuals into a bed, which is available for 90 days for free while staff evaluates those individuals for needed services such as addiction-related services. SHIFTS also helps participants obtain employment or social security benefits.

The county agrees to pay for the first 90 days, according to Wayne Applebee, Sarasota County Homeless Services director. After that initial period, participants can remain in the program, but they may be required to pay rent, determined by Renaissance Manor, who is the program provider and partner with the county and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

“The rent is situational,” said Kaitlyn Johnston, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office. “It depends of (things like) employment, income, benefits, or disabilty.”

The program has elements of a “housing first” approach to homeless services, of which Sarasota County commissioners have been critical, favoring a “come as you are” shelter, which houses individuals indefinitely in a shelter.

“It’s not really either,” said Applebee. “(A housing first initiative) is more in line with the approach of moving folks directly from the street to housing. A housing first approach would place you in a house, not require participation in (something like mental health or addiction) services or require you to pay for anything, and allow you to stay forever if you chose.”

According to a memo from County Administrator Tom Harmer’s office to commissioners, the Sheriff's Office is also asking the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network for an estimated $110,000 to fund two full-time contract positions related to outreach and addiction services.

The program began in June 2015, funded by the county, and has assisted 27 people as of September.

Funding for the $300,000 request is available in the Housing and Community Development Fund, according to the memo.

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