City to break up homeless camp near Gillespie Park

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Efforts to remove a group of homeless people from a parcel of land near Gillespie Park continued today. The area in question has long been known as a homeless hangout -- It's where they cook, sleep, and store their belonging.

I’m talking about the tent city many refer to as Camp Jolene. Today, the Sarasota Police told the residents of the camp that they had to pack up their belongings and leave.

"We have until Monday, I think it is, to move out,” says Robin Cousino, one of the homeless being forced out of the camp. “And there’s like five couples out here, and there is nowhere around the city where couples can go, and I’m not leaving my old man."

Cousino says she was also part of the group pushed from Central Avenue.

"I just think it’s all a shame,” she says. “We’re here; we're being treated like we're not even human or sub-human."

The city disagrees, saying the evictions are a part of their efforts to tackle the homelessness problem.

"We're not just coming in and kicking them to the curb,” says Lorie Jaress of the Sarasota Police Department. “We have partnered with the Salvation Army, and they have graciously offered their facility for 30 days, so we are doing everything in our power to help empower these people."

In addition, Jaress says the camp site violates the city's ordinance banning outdoor lodging and is creating an environment that is not fit for humans to live in.

"We are taking a proactive approach before the Marbut study gets underway to try to combat the homeless and try to get service providers together," Jaress says.

Dr. Robert Marbut, the homeless consultant hired by the city and county of Sarasota, says the recent moves by the city could cause more harm than good.

"[The evictions are] totally counterproductive to success,” he says, “and it will probably lead to lawsuits. It is not what I recommended."

Dr. Marbut says 8 to 9 months is the minimum time required to rehabilitate the average individual, and that providing just 30 days in a shelter for people who have been on the streets for years will decrease the likelihood of success.

"The timing is wrong, how they're doing it is wrong, the training is wrong, the process is wrong," Dr. Marbut says.

As that debate continues, the homeless have already begun packing up and non-profit group Trinity Without Boarders is trying to help them make alternative sleeping arrangements.

But many in the homeless population are still upset by the move.

"These were our homes,” Cousino says.