Salvation Army steps up with plan to help Sarasota's homeless

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- After a marathon city commission meeting Monday night, commissioners made a surprising decision against moving forward with the highly debated "come as you are” shelter. But in that same meeting, the Salvation Army presented a proposal which they believe will begin the process of combatting the homeless problem in Sarasota immediately.

"Our challenge was that we have people that are in need today. So we decided that we would put a proposal together that would be minimally a stop gap between now and the time a ‘come as you are’ shelter would come into play or may still," says David Sutton of the Salvation Army.

According to the Salvation Army, the commissioners seemed to be open to their ideas, which include a triage and low-demand shelter, similar to the come as you are shelter, providing about 24 beds.

Also within the proposal are a welcome center, a progress pod within the jail, a public service campaign, and housing options.

"This provides people immediate help, and our goal is not to get people into shelter, our goal is to get people into housing. The answer to homelessness is not shelter the answer to homelessness is a house," says Sutton.

The Salvation Army says if they could get the funds, they could have their shelter opened in a week, compared to the 18-24 months it would take to have a come as you are shelter up and running.

But the city and county’s hired homeless consultant, Dr. Robert Marbut, says their proposal will not bring drastic change. "For Salvation to work the location, you'd have to probably increase the fiscal plan by about 40%. You'd need at least 200 beds, max. What's being proposed at Salvation Army simply will not work, and it's not going to have the results everyone would hope for it to have."

Although the city commissioners voted unanimously against the ‘come as you are’ shelter in Monday's meeting, Dr. Marbut says he is continuing to work with the county on finding sites for the shelter, within the county.

While the Salvation Army continues their effort to combat homelessness, the Sarasota city commission plans to send a letter to the Sarasota County commission, notifying them of their decision against a ‘come as you are’ shelter.