SARASOTA, Fla -- At first, it may sound like some sort of prank; the city offering one-way bus tickets to the homeless. But Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin says offering one-way bus tickets to the homeless has worked in Jacksonville, so it's time we offer it to the homeless in Sarasota.
"Where the local homeless outreach team has funding to return people to their home communities and their families when there is a recipient on the other end willing to meet them," he explained.
Barwin says the local homeless outreach team will screen applicants very closely before buying them the one-way tickets.
"Over time they (homeless outreach team members) will hone in on who is interested in the program and who is just using it as a quick pass to get out of town for a couple of days," Barwin said.
Private resident Art Levin thinks this plan is so terrific, he approached the City Manager after the meeting to donate.
He thinks it's a great idea. "You just don't give them money, it does take counseling, not just an arbitrary hand 'em a buck," Levin said.
The new program is especially popular with those who live and work around the Rosemary District--who, one by one today, told their respective stories to City Commissioners about losing business and patience to vagrants, many of whom have shifted from Main Street to the 4th and Lemon area.
So how would the homeless react to one-way bus tickets? We asked Calvin Collins, the licensed mental health counselor who interacts with dozens of them every day on behalf of the Sarasota Police.
"The ones we've talked to are excited. They want to go home," Collins said.
The City chipped in a thousand dollars in an effort to spark private donations.