CASL and other organizations tackling housing crisis on the Suncoast

Work continues to bring more affordable and workforce housing to the Suncoast.
Work continues to bring more affordable and workforce housing to the Suncoast.(WWSB)
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 12:01 AM EST
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - As housing costs continue to rise along the Suncoast, one local organization is working hard to help those who are struggling to put a roof over their heads.

The Community Assisted and Supported Living organization, also known as CASL, is finding homes for those on the street or for people who have disabilities.

”If this building wasn’t built, I don’t know what I would do,” said Beth Nielson, an Arbor Village resident.

Nielson found herself homeless a few years ago after her home was destroyed during Hurricane Irma. Through support from CASL, she’s been in her Sarasota apartment now for almost three years. She says when she was homeless, she was attacked and lost one of her eyes.

“This is definitely a whole lot better than the street because I get a check every month, and I would pay to stay at a motel and I would only be able to stay maybe five days,” said Nielson. “then after that I would be down to a couple hundred dollars, I was riding around on a bicycle, sleeping on the beach, sleeping at parks.”

Arbor Village has 80 units, mostly one bedroom and some two bedrooms. ABC7 is being told that rents for these apartments are much lower that teh average for the area.

“When you have a great living environment, for people to live in a home that you would be proud to live in, you incorporate that with supportive services and you get an incredible success story,” said Scott Eller, the founder of CASL.

Eller says that in addition to helping those who are homeless or disabled find homes, they are working closely with other groups to build more workforce housing.

“We’re noticing more and more people are driving here daily to serve people in the community, but they themselves can’t live here and we want to change that,” said Eller.

Many say housing is the most important issue facing residents here on the Suncoast.

“How can you have a stable life if you don’t have a safe place to put your head,” said P.J. Brooks, CASL’s Chief Operating Officer. “If you go to sleep tonight or you sleep with one eye open, or you’re going to be rousted, how can you deal with the rest of what life brings you.”

CASL is helping around 1,200 people in 10 counties. They have plans in the near future to help build 96 workforce housing units on North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.