SARASOTA, FL-- Last summer, Sarasota County hired consultant Dr. Robert Marbut to examine the homeless problem here on the Suncoast and come up with some solutions to improve it. Tuesday some of the details of his long awaited report were released at the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club meeting. During the event Marbut broke down portions of his study and he says if the community follows his recommendations the homeless population will be drastically reduced.
"If you do the whole system you can get a little over an 80 percent reduction in your street homelessness," Marbut added.
And after four months of interviews and data collection Marbut now knows the Sarasota homeless problems better than most. "You have continuing care gaps, you have quantity issue were you don't have enough space and your agencies aren't working together," Marbut said ass he broke down some of the areas of concern.
But those problems coupled with the generosity of people giving money, food, and other things to the homeless has created an environment that is growing the homeless population. According to the report their are about 2000 homeless people in the area and more than 900 of those are families which include children.
"The biggest over lining theme is moving from a culture of enablement which is what Sarasota has now to a culture of engagement," added Marbut.
But behavior changes are just part of the recommendation. The homeless consultant is also pushing for the construction of 5 new homeless facilities that will be spread throughout the county. Four of which will be for families and one the street population. And, Marbut says law enforcement must also change their approach.
"Rather than going to jail and filling up jails and wasting the money in jail people should be brought in to a facility that a 24 hour programming because in jail you don't get the right serves and you waist a lot of money."
Marbut says the coast to tax payers to house the homeless for one night in jail is about $120, but it would be less than $20 a night if they are put in one of the facilities. Marbut's recommendations also includes counseling for the homeless. And so far people on both sides of the issue seem to agree with the suggestions.
"What I saw today was all of us taking ownership of this and i really believe its time and we're going to get this right," said Sarasota commissioner Suzanne Atwell.
"I thought it was well received, I think every angel every direction of homelessness was discussed," said Alli Kleber.
The full report will be available at the next Sarasota County Commissioner meeting.