Marbut: South county dealing with larger number of homeless families

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VENICE, Fla. – The consultant hired to help resolve Sarasota County's homeless crisis is presenting his findings. Dr. Robert Marbut attended meetings with the leaders of Sarasota County, as well as officials from the cities of North Port, Venice and Sarasota on Monday.

Here are some of the statistics from Dr. Marbut's report:

In Sarasota County there are 1,240 homeless adults, and there is a shortfall of more than 1,100 beds to help keep them off the street at night. About 21% of the county jail population is made up of homeless people. And perhaps the most troubling statistic: there are 348 families with 637 children that don't have a place to call their own home.

Many of those homeless families are living in South Sarasota County. And Marbut's plan recommends several facilities to address the issue. He says south Sarasota County is much different than the north, where there are more single adults living on the street. Down south, it's families; often times single mothers escaping abusive situations with just one thing going wrong, finding there are few places to turn.

"It's hard for me to really function." Danzey Allen says she has a college degree. Also, three kids and a heart condition which keeps her from working full time. What they don't have is a place to live. "We lost everything. My kids are pretty much anywhere and I am sometimes in the car."

Marbut says this single mother is far from alone in mid and south Sarasota County. “North county has the chronic adult problem, and I am way oversimplifying that. South county has the families and the unaccompanied minors."

He says out of the roughly 350 homeless families with children reported in the area, half are in Englewood and North Port. "There is help for kids and help for single people, but not for families."

Danzey says she is living in the car because there is nowhere to go.

Ellen McLaughlin with the YMCA’s School House Link program says south county needs something. "There is a tremendous need for an emergency type shelter so families will have a place to go when they are in a desperate situation."

As a band aid, a new program funded by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation is helping with motel vouchers. Community assistance director Karin Barbito says it's only for a week. "What we are seeing is a week, is not sufficient. Two weeks, three weeks, eight weeks is what it really takes for somebody to get back on their feet and have the money available to so they can get into their own place and sustain it."

An intake facility would also have support services. Marbut explained to the large crowd that the community and all the services for those in need, need to come together. "We have got to take those systems and we need to put them on steroids. We have to get it to where there is enough capacity for everybody and fine tune the organization."

Danzey says they will at least be able to spend Thanksgiving together and hopes that something changes fast. "I can either cry or try to do something about it. Crying doesn't help. Even if I am getting nowhere, at least trying means something."

Marbut says the county now knows the issues, and hopes elected officials will continue on and that his recommendations don't just sit on a shelf somewhere.