Homeless removed from Florida Avenue camp

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Posted: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 6:08 pm | Updated: 12:58 pm, Mon Jul 22, 2013.

SARASOTA - Tuesday morning, Sarasota city workers began throwing away the belongings of homeless people left along Florida Avenue.

“The police came through about 11 or midnight and told us we had to leave." Those are the words of one of the homeless people who used to live on Florida Avenue. Last week they were given eviction notices that they and their belongings must be gone; a situation many of the homeless people are not happy about.

"It was spontaneous…you don’t know what to do, where go, where to sleep at, because wherever you sleep at, you’re going to get a ticket, or go to jail. Then when you get out of jail you’re going to find somewhere else to sleep at, and then you are going to go back to jail, so it’s just going to be a cycle that never ends."

But groups like the Salvation Army say they're trying to stop that cycle. "Initially to the Salvation Army, everybody gets 10 nights for free. Those ten nights they stay in an emergency shelter,” says David Sutton of the Salvation Army.

During those ten nights, the person is assessed and given an opportunity to enter rehabilitation program. "We call it case management at the door. If you want help we'll help you, if you want to remain in the process that you're in, then we charge $10 a night," says Sutton.

Sutton says the Salvation Army cannot accept anyone long term if they are not willing to participate in a program. And the daily fee is incentive for the homeless to want to participate. But many of those people say they would rather live on the streets.

"$10 might not seem like a lot to other people, but when you're out here, $10 is a lot of money. And when we go to the Salvation Army, it’s not like we go into a room with a bed; we're on a mat on the floor where we have to be in by 9pm and we’re woken up by 4:30 to 5am to leave."

In addition, the homeless person we spoke to says many pass on the Salvation Army because of some of the guidelines. "A lot of us have extenuating situations of why we don't want to go there; be it we don't want to be away from our significant other, because it’s not a co-ed situation. Unfortunately, some people are institutionalized, where going there is like being back inside of some type of jail."

Whatever the reason, many homeless people say their only option is to move to the next street.   "We're nomadic so we'll find somewhere to lay our heads, it might be one night or it might be two nights until the police tell us to move again". 

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