SARASOTA COUNTY, FL - A new local study finds there are more than 400 families with nearly 800 children who are homeless in Sarasota County; even more are on the brink of losing their home. It's an issue some are hoping will come to the forefront while they work to help families stay off the street.
"Our programs are preventive. We are trying to keep families from becoming homeless." Zulma Solero with North Port Social Services is working to keep families in their home, assisting those who qualify with things like rent or late bills. These days she says she's still plenty busy. "The economy and the jobs with the rate of pay doesn't seem to be enough to cover the families expenses."
The results of a new area survey through the Sarasota Family YMCA School House Link program suggests there are many more slipping through the cracks.
"I think a lot of people are not aware that there are so many families homeless in Sarasota County." Director Ellen McLaughlin says the survey of 13 local organizations working with the homeless found the stunning numbers. "Families are trying to rent places that are $800, $900, $1,000 a month, and they really just can not afford it. One little thing happens and they lose their housing."
McLaughlin says they consider those who are living in the woods, motels, vehicles, or bunking up with friends and family homeless. They believe there are also hundreds more who are considered at imminent risk of losing the roof over their head. "There are so many families that are on the brink. They need quick appropriate services." It includes the need for more emergency shelters in the area.
Solero says they're doing everything they can. Right now trying to give families even a little break by collecting food for Thanksgiving through the Mayors Feed The Hungry campaign and even presents for the little ones through their Toy Chest program. "Anyone can be in this situation these families are in." For now non perishable food items and toys for kids under 14 can be dropped off at places like North Port City Hall. "Think of yourself as maybe being that guardian angle for that one family you might be able to help out."
Homeless expert Robert Marbut will be presenting his report on the homeless situation in our area with fixes on November 25th.