Sarasota woman continues with personal effort to help the homeless

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Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 5:49 pm | Updated: 5:55 pm, Tue Sep 10, 2013.

SARASOTA, Fla. - A local woman is continuing her mission to create a permanent homeless camp in Sarasota. But experts and city leaders are asking her to slow down.

Vallerie Gilloury plans to build the encampment on a vacant lot off U.S. 301 north of 10th Street, where she says around 100 people could be living. But some say this may not be the best way to fix the city's deep-rooted homeless problem.

The proposed camp would have mini housing units, a playground, and even a worship center. "What we're hoping to see here is kind of a mixed use type of situation."

And local homeless residents like what they're hearing. "I think it’s a great idea; it’s going to keep a lot of people from getting arrested for trespassing and other stupid stuff like that," says Amanda Bartholomew, who is homeless.

City leaders though expressed opposition to the idea months ago, and again told ABC 7 on Tuesday that the property isn't zoned for that kind of use. They want Gilloury to wait for a recommendation by Dr. Robert Marbut, the homelessness expert who's been hired by the city to fix the homeless problem.

"In some ways, Valerie is sort of a half step ahead of everybody, and we need to wait to find out what the information is first."

Marbut says as of now, nobody has any real idea just how bad the homeless problem is. "And I've told her this directly -- ya know, you seem really wedded to wanting to do this and you're really wedded to a solution, but we don’t know what the scope of the problem and the magnitude of the problem is yet."

Undeterred, Gilloury says she thinks the city will end up seeing her point of view. "I think that they're willing to support anything positive that's acceptable to the community and will benefit the city."

And even though the city doesn't seem too keen on her plan, Gilloury says she'll wait and see. "We're just day-by-day, one day at a time."

Gilloury says she has gone before the city commission several times before, and met with the city's neighborhood development services as well. She says she is currently putting together a new plan that she hopes to present again in the near future.

Marbut's study is expected to be completed in a month. He says her plan isn't bad, it just needs to be evaluated. Once the full scope of the problem is established, it may not be feasible.

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