On Dec. 21 in Venice, Suncoast Partnership officials unveiled the first portion of a new 10-year plan to eradicate homelessness in Sarasota County.
The Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness executive summary, labeled StepUp, included the following objectives as an overview of the plan’s goals:
• 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 that lead to self-sufficiency, permanent housing and financial stability.
Adam Tebrugge, co-chairman of the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness 10-year plan, said the objectives require the help of all members of the community.
“We have to move into partnership and collaboration (mode) and be smarter in how we deliver services,” Tebrugge said.
In 2010, more than 16,000 people appealed to the Suncoast Partnership for help with homelessness and economic hardship problems.
“It was never our intention to come up with a set of guidelines that would sit on a shelf somewhere,” Tebrugge said. “We are asking every member of Sarasota County to step up to the plate.”
Richard Martin, executive director of Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, called the plan said the plan is simple.
“Everyone deserves a safe place to call home,” he said.
The challenge facing the community, Martin said, is to make sure the homeless feel comfortable and accept the services provided. Community residents can do that by considering factors in each homeless person’s background, such as disability or veteran’s status, that have contributed to the person’s situation. That will help the community aid the homeless in getting legal birth certificates, Social Security cards and permanent identification cards.
All local organizations also must cooperate with each other to eliminate any gaps in services, Martin said.
Suncoast Partnership will unveil other portions of the plan at various board meetings around the county and at Sarasota County and Sarasota City Commission meetings.
Volume Two of the plan also will be introduced in phases next year on www.StepUpSarasota.com. This will be a comprehensive document on homelessness and housing in Sarasota County.
Additionally, the plan will work with United Way 2-1-1 of Manasota to develop a service delivery system to provide help efficiently, build single-room occupancy housing and open a one-stop center/day shelter in south Sarasota County.
Early in 2011, prompted by Sarasota County officials, the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness initiated a process to develop a “Plan to Prevent & End Homelessness in Sarasota County.” With funding from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the organization is moving forward to produce and begin implementing the plan.
Gulf Coast awarded the Suncoast Partnership a $50,000 grant to complete a long-term strategic plan with goals, leadership proposals, costs and measurements, to better coordinate and streamline efforts.
The face of homelessness has changed recently, with 37% of the current homeless population experiencing homelessness for the first time. In 2010, Sarasota agencies provided financial assistance and other services to 4,283 people who were homeless and an additional 11,951 people at imminent risk of homelessness.
Additionally, the state’s Department of Education reported that 1,259 Sarasota County schoolchildren were homeless during the 2010-2011 school year.
An affordable housing study showed nearly 50,000 Sarasota County households will be burdened by housing costs by 2015.
“This is a community plan,” Martin said. “If we are to achieve excellence in our mission, community members from across Sarasota County need to be engaged.”
Partnership to End Homelessness Mission and Vision
Mission: To end homelessness in Sarasota County now.
Vision: Everyone deserves a safe, stable place to call home. In Sarasota County, we have the capacity to prevent and end homelessness and improve the health, safety and quality of life for every citizen. Stakeholders from across the country will unite to establish best practices, identify funding and form community partnerships to end homelessness and break the cycle of poverty in Sarasota County.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].