SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Business owners in downtown Sarasota say homeless activity continues to scare off customers - and that’s a huge problem.
In the latest incident, a man urinated on an occupied vehicle while a woman was is in the passenger seat looking in disbelief. It was caught on camera.
“I saw the reaction from the lady inside the car, she was terrified,” said Joey Daskalids.
“I was intoxicated and I made a mistake,” said Tom Holding. He admits he’s the man seen in the video peeing in public.
And for Ron Soto, the owner of Soto’s Optical on Main Street, he’s seen this type of behavior before from Holding and a few other individuals. “The problem that we have right now is that the ones that are out there are what we would call the chronic homeless,” said Soto.
And when it comes to Holding, he’s right. Records show more than 90 criminal filings against Holding, being cited for various infractions. The retired army veteran says he spent the last 18 years living on Main Street.
Soto says it’s just a select few that are exhibiting behavior that’s scaring off customers. “They’ve been offered homes, they’ve been offered help and they refuse to take it. They’re also collecting a tremendous amount of money. It’s money that if you and I were doing it, we would have an apartment.”
Sarasota Coordinator of Homeless Response Kevin Stiff recognizes there are some that refuse to accept assistance. “For several individuals have been offered services and opportunities numerous times that are resistant to any of that,” said Stiff.
But the city is trying to help, creating a homeless outreach program in 2014, which has reduced the homeless population by over 50 percent in the last four years.
The city is also creating a new initiative called “Care Court” that is still a work in progress. It will give the chronically homeless another way off the streets and encouragement to follow the law.