Reaction mixed to city backing off new homeless shelter

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SARASOTA, Fla -- Depending on your perspective, Sarasota City Commissioners abrupt decision to back off building a homeless shelter was either a good thing--or a bad thing.

ABC 7 talked to a homeless man who didn't want to be identified. He said he's embarrassed to be on the streets during the 8 months since he lost his job with a waste management company. He's aware of the city's vote against the shelter and is disappointed.

"I've seen it in the paper, I don't know why they won't build one. If they build a shelter, it'll bring more money to the city, more jobs to the city and it cures the solution of having us on the street," he said.

Robert Marbut agrees. He's the national homeless consultant to whom the city paid over a hundred thousand dollars--and he's the same one disappointed the city is not taking his advice and building a shelter.

"What the city chose to do was nothing dramatic, and when they first asked me to get involved I told them they could reduce the homeless by 70/80 percent. But the city chose to do nothing dramatic, and is taking a warmed over 'same old, same old," Marbut said to us on the phone from his home in San Antonio.

Marbut predicts the homeless population will grow another 20 percent in the next year and a half. Despite that prediction, some merchants still don't want a homeless shelter in the City of Sarasota.

Downtown businessman Ron Soto says Sarasota County should build something that's mid-county, so homeless in Venice and North Port have access.

In the meantime, he says he's seeing less homeless on the streets.

"Right now the police have done a fantastic job of clearing up downtown, it's way better than it was, and with the new volunteer program they've put together, it's going to be really good," Soto said.

But don't tell that to the homeless man we talked to. He can't believe the increase he's seeing this year.

"It was bad, but not that bad. Now it's outrageous," he said.

Sarasota County will next discuss the homeless issue, and whether they'll build a shelter or also drop the issue, at their meeting August 20th.