SARASOTA, Fla. -- The countdown to the closing of the homeless camp off U.S. 301 and 10th Way continued today. About 30 homeless people who called the site home have been given notice to vacate the premises, and many tents now sit unoccupied in the empty lot known as Camp Jolene.
City officials have told us the move to evict the homeless is necessary to comply with an ordinance banning outdoor lodging. They also said the camp is creating a health hazard and is not suitable for people to live in.
"It’s all about health and sanitary reason right now,” says David Dubendorf of the Sarasota Police. “Over here we have standing water, you got a lot of diseases, you got rats. Besides that, there is no sanitary place to use the bathroom."
As an alternative, the city has teamed up with the Salvation Army to provide 30-night stays free of charge for those being evicted from the camp. And non-profit organizations like Trinity Without Borders have also been working to help the homeless find alternatives.
"They’re working very hard, the residents of the camp, to try to comply with the city," says Vallerie Guillory of Trinity Without Borders. "We've gotten four people reunited with their families in other cities -- we actually bought them bus tickets and got them on the bus. We have four other people who have been pledged housing from one of our partner agency. We have two other couples where recourses have been pledge for them to have hotel rooms for 30 days.”
Still many in the homeless population say they have no options.
"We all packed up our things and are sitting on them waiting for the city," says Jeff O’Malley, who is among the small group of homeless still at the camp. "People out her don’t want to move anymore, we just want help. … There’s people out here who don’t want a handout, they want a hand up -- and it seems as the city is just kicking us down."