Proposed homeless shelter plans put on the shelf

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- There will not be a ‘come as you are’ shelter in the City of Sarasota. During the city commission meeting Monday night, the group decided to not move forward with the proposal.

For the last 10 months, Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota have been working toward finding a solution to the chronic homeless problem. The plan was to build a come as you are shelter, but that has now been put to bed.

"I think they failed their residents," says Sarasota County commissioner Joe Barbetta about a recent decision by city officials to not move forward with a plan to build ‘a come as you are’ homeless shelter in the city limits.

The proposed shelter was part of the 12-step plan recommended by homelessness consultant Dr. Robert Marbut.

He was hired come up with a solution to the chronic homeless problem in the area. "The very city commissioner who supported Dr. Marbut, including a couple who campaigned on Dr. Marbut’s proposal, have now turned and basically said ‘we don’t agree with it.’ And that’s tough to do when you pay consultant a sum of money and you just throw it away."

The county proposed about $500,000 to implement all of Marbut's recommendations. So far the city has spent about $111,000.

But Commissioner Shannon Synder says it wasn't all a loss. "We chose a great deal of what Dr. Marbut proposed, but we there was at least one item that we chose not to accept, because we found that the proposal that we had wasn't the right fit for the city of Sarasota."

Synder says those concerns included the cost to build the come as you are shelter. “Every month the price kept going up. We started at somewhere around a million dollars, and somewhere around $9 million was the last estimate I saw."

In addition, Snyder says recent studies show many of the chronic homeless who would be served by the shelter are only passing through the area. "They’re more than happy to pass through, but we should be required to pay for them while they pass through."

In the meantime, Barbetta fears the vote will result in the homeless problem getting worse. "Probably a 20-25% increase in the homeless population in the city of Sarasota, and that falls in line with what Dr. Marbut has said."