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Englewood residents wary of proposed site to aid homeless families

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Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 4:47 pm | Updated: 5:44 pm, Tue Nov 26, 2013.

**UPDATE**  Tuesday evening, ABC 7 obtained an email from Marbut to county commissioner Christine Robinson, suggesting the Englewood site is being taken out of his final report recommendation.


SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. - Families make up most of the homeless population living now in South Sarasota County, and homelessness expert Robert Marbut is stressing the need for a housing facility that can help them get back on their feet.

The proposed site is an old apartment complex located off Elm Street, just blocks from Dearborn Street.

It was just a suggestion in the recently released report, perhaps turning the old run-down apartment complex into an emergency living facility for families who suddenly find themselves homeless.

Those who live around there though are not even happy with the thought.

"2007, it started to slowly go downhill." Englewood resident John Oberst says the rundown Lemon Bay Gardens apartment complex next door has been their nightmare on Elm Street. "It's horrible, it's deplorable."

After years of struggling, he says the drug dealers and squatters are gone. He's now worried about the suggestion it could become a village for homeless families. "They never talked to the residents. All of the residents are together, 100% against this being an institution."

He’s worried that those dealing with an assortment of issues will bring some of them to the neighborhood they've been working to clean up. "It's a bad element. It is going to affect our little village."

The concern started just a few days ago when homeless expert Robert Marbut put in his report that a facility for families is needed in south county. Just this one potential location in Englewood was mentioned.

When we asked Marbut, he said the site has not been thought out fully. “It's a promising site. It has not been vetted. It has not been fully researched. If you read in the report it clearly states that. I think all they saw was the address and went ‘oh no’."

Marbut says the type of facility he's talking about would have to fit into a neighborhood and in fact improve it. "When you take over like a dilapidated house or short sale foreclosure, we don't want to just improve it above the prior condition, we want that house to be better than the neighborhood stock."

County commissioner Christine Robinson says the process will be extensive. "We want to make sure we are responsible and keep it internalized no matter where we put it. Be good responsible neighbors and actually lift up the neighborhood where we are at."

Neighbors there though are not taking any chances. They’re now banding together, signing a petition and showing up at meetings, hoping to stop the idea before it becomes something more. “In the proper setting, take care of these people. Give them a chance, but it shouldn't be in a residential setting."

Now some of the reasons we've been told that area would be good for struggling families is because there is a need in that area. Also, it's close to a school and parks, as well as a church which is already working with the homeless.

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