Homeless man found on Sarasota woman’s porch illustrates need for residential mental health facilities

Homelessness and mental health

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Imagine waking up to a stranger on your porch…

“I was scared, I’m from Miami and in Miami if someone shows up in your back porch at 6:30 in the morning and it’s dark, then that means you’re going to be a victim of a violent crime,” said Allison Archbold.

And that’s exactly what happened to Archbold at her Sarasota home on Saturday.

“He appeared to be drunk and intoxicated and he was kind of gesturing at us through the doors,” she said.

She says even her large dogs didn’t scare the man away.

“He finally gave up, he started walking around the house and I went to look outside of the door to see if he left the yard and he greeted me on the side door again trying to get my attention or something, and finally he gave up,” she said.

She immediately called 911. Police managed to apprehend the man steps away from her home. What they found out is that he was homeless and was taken to a mental health facility by police. Before this incident he was working with Harvest House, which works with people suffering from addiction.

“We’ve seen a significant increase concurring or the dual diagnosis with mental health alongside substance abuse, and as we serve this population and these clients in need and we’ve had to develop and get better,” said Jim Rouches, Director of Programs at Harvest House.

He says his facility is in high demand and there’s a waiting list. However, there’s lack of residential mental health programs in Florida, and his clients may or may not follow their mental health plan.

“I guess it is costly, and that’s something that it would be nice to have but even where we are today and the funding, if it could be spread out to some of the residential places where we can partner with the Centerstones and the First Steps,” he said.

The City of Sarasota is also lending a helping hand.

“The city has a homeless outreach team that has been in place for 3 and half, 4 years and we take case workers to the homeless community and try to encourage them to participate in the programs and to educate them about what the programs are and if they fall into violating the law then we enforce the laws as well,” said City Manager Tom Barwin.

He says he’s passionate about reducing this problem.

“It’s been a successful strategy that we have reduced chronic homelessness in the streets by 50% over the last couple of years,” he said.

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