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Homeless facility recommended on North Osprey Avenue

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Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 5:51 pm

SARASOTA, Fla. - Wednesday a highly anticipated report on the Suncoast homeless problem was released. Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota hired Dr. Robert Marbut to examine the problem and make recommendations to solve it.

"We need a new shelter, one that helps the homeless." Allan Rains is among the more than 2,000 homeless people in living in the Sarasota area. “I can’t afford to live nowhere but here out on the street."

But that may soon change. According to a draft of the homeless report put together by Dr. Marbut, five new homeless facilities need to be constructed in the area. Four of them would serve families and one would cater to what officials call the chronically homeless population living on the streets.

According to the draft of the report, a vacant city-owned lot at 1330 North Osprey Avenue is the recommended location.

"They need something like that, because they are cracking down very hard on the homeless people. If you get caught outside, you go to jail," says Sharon McCleam.

Still there are concerns over the North Osprey location. It's next to the Department of Children and Families, the Glasser/Shoenbaum Human Services Center, and several businesses.

The report lists alternative sites, but many of those are also under scrutiny.

"I’m somewhat disappointed that seven of the ten sites that were most likable just happened to be in District 1," says Sarasota Vice-Mayor Willie Shaw.

Many speculate that District 1 was selected because of its highly improvised community, but the report indicates other factors like being close to the jail, who owns the property, and buffer space around the property.

Even though the potential site is causing some concern, officials say they understand the importance of tackling the homeless problem. "I’m always open and yet optimistic that we are having this dialog on the homeless issue," says Shaw.

In the meantime, many in the homeless community hope change comes soon. "We haven't got a shelter now. The Salvation Army isn't really a shelter, it's a drug rehab program and alcohol rehab program. The homeless eat here and they sleep outside right here."

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