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The beginning of the end of the homeless issue in Sarasota

SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - The homeless problem has plagued Sarasota County for years and a solution has been elusive. That could soon be changing. On Tuesday commissioners unanimously approved several measures that could tackle the problem once and for all.  

Commissioners gave the green light to move forward with two contracts. The first, with Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, calls for the organization to create and implement a  step-by-step process to get the homeless off the streets and connected with services they need. The contract will cost the county about $194,000 a year, some of which would be paid for with federal funds. 

Wayne Applebee, the Director of Homeless Services says his concern goes beyond the price but the streaming lining of services for the homeless.

"Previously everybody could go to a different location and they would be afforded whatever services that location could offer but maybe the best services was some place else in town, that could really address their needs.  So, this is about allying the resources in a uniformed fashion with those in out population who don't have homes," said Applebee.

The second agreement is the purchase of beds at the Salvation Army.  The county will start off with 10 beds that will be used as an emergency shelter for the chronic homeless population, with the option to increase to up to 30 beds. This will cost  $272,600.

"This shelter bed is at no cost to them [the homeless individual], it does not require sobriety, does not require mental or substance abuse treatment, and it does provide a reasonable amount of space for their personal property, and it's available for them 24 hours a day 7 days a weeks,"  Applebee told the commission.

Both the purchase of the beds and the agreement with the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness made way for a second unanimous vote on the county's Quality of Life Ordinance, which makes camping and storing personal items on public property illegal. 

"This isn't meant to be heavy handed, said County Commissioner Charles Hines. "But this is meant to deal with the very small segment of the population that won't engage in homeless services." 

The new rules will go into effect in 2018. Officials say that will give both law enforcement and homeless outreach organizations time to train on the new procedures.