New homeless services still on track in South Sarasota County

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SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. -- While the City of Sarasota is backing off plans for a ‘come as you are’ shelter, Sarasota County says they're moving forward. County officials say they will look for a location while implementing other recommendations to help those in need, especially children and families.

Sarasota County Director of Homeless Services Wayne Applebee says they've now been tasked to look for a shelter site close to central services and places like the jail. "Primary search would be in that North Sarasota County corridor, just outside the city lines."

He says it's far from the only thing they're working on. "It's important to remember that is one recommendation of twelve."

Within the next 18 months, the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness hopes to have something like a database in place where organizations can share information about those they're serving. Also, a campaign asking people not to enable those asking for money.

"Changing our culture for enabling to engaging."

Instead, they’re setting up something where it's easy to give that change to an organization that’s helping.

Farther south, the problem centers less around the chronically homeless and more around children and families who all of sudden find themselves without a place to stay. "The City of North Port has agreed to provide space in their Family Services Center."

That emergency portal is currently being planned and will be taken over by Catholic charities. In that area they are also looking at other options, with funding help from the Office of Housing and Community Development. “Purchasing some homes that are in walking distance of that Family Services Center; homes we could turn into duplexes and serve families and children."

Closer to Venice, churches are banding together and working with organizations like the Gulf Coast Community Foundation to establish a Day Resource Center, where those down on their luck would stay in the churches at night and could use resources at the center during the day.

"There is daycare, showers, job training, job preparation skills…those types of things to help a family."

An Empty Pantry program and a 40-day challenge by the All Faiths Food Bank brought in lots of food and more than $1.2 million.

Applebee says there is much more, and the work is starting to be recognized nationally. “Some of the things we are doing on the children and family side are going to become a model for other communities. No question about it."

Now that portal in North Port still needs some work. The space will become available in just a few days, but they are going to have to do some remodeling. They hope it will be ready by the end of the year.

As for the location of the Day Resource Center, we are told they will be looking in the area of U.S. 41 and State Road 776, right in the middle of Venice, and close to North Port and Englewood. No exact site has been named at this point.