Wednesday, September 07, 2016


Does Sarasota County Emergency Management Take Homeless Citizens Into Account?

I just sent this email out to Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer, City administrator Tom Barwin, and Megarie Van Sickel Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Southwest Florida:

Last week, Hurricane Hermine brought severe weather to Sarasota that lasted for more than three days. The worst weather occurred on Wednesday, August 31. Flooding forced the evacuation of some residents of Bayou Oaks. Local media reports that these residents were grateful to Sarasota County firefighters and Sarasota City police officers for ensuring their safety. It was also reported that the American Red Cross established services at the Robert Taylor community center for those who were evacuated.
Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, no steps were taken to ensure the safety of our homeless citizens. I have received credible reports that on the night of August 31, 2016, about 30 citizens without homes had taken shelter in the area outside the Selby library. Around midnight, these citizens were confronted by police officers who informed them they had to leave. No one was offered transportation to any safe location. Persons who left and attempted to find shelter at the Salvation Army were turned away. This is particularly distressing in light of the fact that just a few days earlier, a homeless woman was struck and killed by lightning while attempting to find shelter at Martin Luther King, Jr. park in Sarasota.
I am respectfully requesting that Sarasota County, the City of Sarasota, and the American Red Cross immediately work together to develop an emergency management plan to care for our homeless citizens so that we are ready for the next storm.
Adam Tebrugge

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Cold Weather Shelters Open in Sarasota Tonight

Due to cold weather forecast, local emergency shelters will open.  Please read advisory from Sarasota County below. In Manatee County, The Salvation Army - Manatee shelter, located at 1204 14th Street West in Bradenton will have extra bed availability as needed, and may be reached at (941) 748-5110 for more information.

SARASOTA COUNTY - A cold weather advisory issued by the National Weather Service has Sarasota County Emergency Management officials reminding residents to prepare for colder than usual conditions by taking precautions to protect their homes, families and pets. 

The current forecast has minimum temperatures late Wednesday night in the lower 40s, and the lower 30s late Thursday night for ALL of Sarasota County. A wind chill advisory has also been issued for all of Sarasota County, with wind chill temperatures in the mid-30s expected Wednesday night, and wind chill temperatures in the low 30s on Thursday night.

Sarasota County Emergency Management has coordinated with the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Grace United Methodist Church in Venice and New Hope Community Church in North Port to provide cold weather sheltering for those in need. 

The following shelter locations will be open Wednesday night:

North County: Sarasota
Salvation Army Center of Hope, 1400 10th St., Sarasota, FL 34236
The Salvation Army's front porch opens at 4 p.m., with intake expected to begin at 6:30 p.m.; the front porch will re-open at 4:30 a.m. and remain open until 5 a.m., when the welcome center opens.

South County: Venice
Grace United Methodist Church, 400 Field Ave., East, Venice, FL 34285, opens at 6 p.m.

The following shelter locations will be open Thursday night:

North County: Sarasota
Salvation Army Center of Hope, 1400 10th St., Sarasota, FL 34236
The Salvation Army's front porch opens at 4 p.m., with intake expected to begin at 6:30 p.m.; the front porch will re-open at 4:30 a.m. and remain open until 5 a.m., when the welcome center opens.

South County: Venice
Grace United Methodist Church, 400 Field Ave., East, Venice, FL 34285, opens at 6 p.m.

North Port:
New Hope Community Church, 5600 S. Biscayne Drive, North Port, FL, 34287, opens at 7 p.m.

Pets should not be left outside during the cold weather. Citizens who need to be outside overnight or during the early morning hours are encouraged to dress in several warm layers and limit skin exposure to the wind.

For more information visit the All Hazards website at

Sunday, July 06, 2014


Put people in touch with property

   In 2011, a group of Sarasota County residents undertook the process of formulating a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. "StepUp End Homelessness in Sarasota County Now" was formally released in December of 2011. The plan can be found here.
   Some parts of the plan have been successfully implemented, like improvements to HMIS and the formation and continued success of "Street Teams." As we worked on the plan, we realized that the most difficult aspect was housing.  We favored the building of a "Come as You Are" shelter but realized the difficulty of site selection. In 2012, I went before both the Sarasota city and county commissions with a list of recommendations on how to move forward but was unsuccessful.
   Robert Marbut was hired by Sarasota County thereafter and in 2013 presented his plan. The Marbut plan addressed many of the same elements and recommendations as the StepUp plan. What Marbut really brought to the table was criteria for site selection and a several specific proposals as to possible locations. I don't think he anticipated the resistance from the community however. Unfortunately, any site for a shelter in Sarasota is going to meet with sustained vocal objections. Though many of the specific concerns could be addressed, I do not believe there is the political will to overcome the dissidents. Without a location for a shelter, the residents of Sarasota will continue to endure the collateral consequences of homelessness that are much worse than the feared effects expressed by those who live in the vicinity of any particular site.
      Tom Tryon of the Sarasota Herald Tribune has been a vocal proponent of the various efforts to address homelessness in our community. But as he noted in the lead editorial today; "Sarasota County and the city of Sarasota are not even close to creating a recommended shelter for chronically homeless adults." There continues to be an immediate humanitarian crisis that needs to be addressed, but it may be impossible to do so in the face of opposition. Therefore, the editorial notes, we must continue to look for other solutions as well. "Housing First" is an idea that has been successful in many other communities. The chronically homeless are moved into permanent housing instead of a temporarily assisted in a shelter. The hurdle in Sarasota is the lack of affordable rentals. Therefore, the editorial concludes: "a plan for reducing homelessness must include initiatives to expand the stock of affordable rentals."
      So how might we accomplish this expansion? Where might the stock of housing come from? The answer has been right in front of our eyes for the past five years. In a front page article in the Herald Tribune today, Josh Salman points out there are about 1,600 vacant home in Sarasota and Manatee counties, that he has labeled "zombies." Essentially, banks began foreclosure proceedings, people abandoned the houses, the foreclosure action stalled, and the property has remained vacant, in many cases for years. Apparently the banks have no incentive to complete the foreclosure or rehabilitate the property and return it to the marketplace. Nor are they paying for insurance or property taxes while the homes deteriorate. This not so benign neglect is hurting everyone -- neighbors, communities, local government, the court system, and the overall market. Meanwhile, children and families and the chronically homeless continue to live on the streets.
      We need leadership at the State level to put people in touch with properties. Banks should be held liable for taxes, code enforcement and safety conditions on the properties they now own. These financial penalties can be lifted if the bank turns the property over to an affordable housing trust. The trust would be responsible for rehabilitating the properties and identifying responsible tenants to inhabitate them. This would help free up additional affordable properties to house the homeless.
      Somehow our legislature continues to find millions of dollars to give away to private business interests yet they refuse to invest in the communities they purportedly represent. We must find a way to put people in touch with property for the benefit of us all.

Saturday, April 06, 2013



We build million dollar memorials for our veterans but arrest them for sleeping in public.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Dear Senator Galvano

January 31, 2013

Senator Bill Galvano
1023 Manatee Avenue West

Suite 201

Bradenton, FL 34205

Dear Senator Galvano:

      It was nice to see you at the Manatee County Bar Association lunch yesterday.
I appreciated your remarks and updates. It was also good to have a chance to discuss homelessness with you.

      As I mentioned, I continue to be associated with the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness. We are the lead agency for Manatee and Sarasota counties. We work closely with the Community Coalition on Homelessness (now Turning Points) and other agencies in the Continuum of Care.

     We both know first hand the important work being done by the Partnership and Coalition to assist our neediest citizens and improve the quality of life for everyone.
For years the Partnership existed with negligible funding by the State of Florida. Unfortunately, last year even that was cut.

    With this letter I enclose the legislative agenda for 2013 as stated by the Florida Coalition for the Homeless. The main takeaway is that moderate state funding of our local coalitions allows us to keep our doors open, serve the people, and bring substantial additional funding into our community.

     You and I both know the devastating impact of our current economic crisis. As you work on your priorities for the 2013 session, I hope that you will champion the issue of homelessness, and allow our local coalitions to enact long-term solutions.

Best Wishes,

Adam Tebrugge

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Lessons from the Melville Charitable Trust to End Homelessness

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Fee Waiver for Identification for Homeless Citizens

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is preparing to implement 
the provisions of section 322.051, Florida Statutes, that authorizes a waiver of 
the fee for the issuance of a state identification card to persons who are 

The Office has been working with the staff at the Department of Highway Safety 
and Motor Vehicles to develop a consistent form to be used to certify that the 
individual seeking this fee waiver meets the state definition of being a 
homeless person.  To this end, the attached sample letter is being distributed 
to you to use to help those homeless persons you work with to secure this fee 

(See sample letter below: homeless certification form Sample Letter for HSMV.doc)

Please be sure that your certification meets the following criteria:

1.  The certification is on agency letterhead stationery.
2.  The name of the individual being certified is TYPED on the letter.
Please do not hand write the person's name.
3.  Provide the current address for the individual, if there is a place that the 
person uses for a current address or to receive their mail.
4.  Be sure to note how your agency has served or has contact with the 
5.  Retain documentation in your file of the person's homeless status, if there 
are follow up questions from the state.
6.  Have a duly authorized official for your agency sign the letter, and provide 
that official's title.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will be distributing more 
information on their implementation of the fee waiver in the coming weeks.

If you have any questions, please contact me.

Share this information with the other provider agencies in your continuum of 
care planning area who may also help certify a person's homeless status for the 
purpose of seeking the fee waiver for the state identification card.

Thank you

Tom Pierce
Office on Homelessness
Department of Children and Families

Subject:  Verification of Homeless Status
This agency certifies that [type the Name of Person] meets the definition of a homeless person in accordance with state law.  [Section 420.621, Florida Statutes]  This agency provided the following services to this individual:

Street Outreach, Assessment and Referral

Emergency Shelter

Supportive Services:  food, clothing, health services, etc.

Transitional Housing

Permanent Supportive Housing


Based on this agency’s records, [Name of Person] had the following address:
[City, State, Zip]
Evidence to document the basis of this determination of [Name of Person] status as homeless is maintained in this agency’s file.

[Signature of Authorized Official]
[Type Name of Authorizing Official]

Friday, November 16, 2012


There is such a thing as a free lunch

                              EVERYONE IS INVITED TO … 
FREE Thanksgiving Wednesday
Theater Luncheon Benefit
Full Thanksgiving MealNovember 21st,
 11:45 am to 1:00 pm
St. Martha’s Parish Hall,
200 Orange at Fruitville

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A day in the life of a homeless family.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 26, 2012

RE: CCH Reception Center Volunteers Needed
Dear CCH Friend:

We urgently need 2 – 3 great volunteers to work at our reception center on Thursdays and Fridays. The hours can be split into morning and afternoon shifts -- anytime between 8:30 AM and 5:00 PM. The main duties include answering phones, working with clients, setting appointments, making referrals and filing. Bi-lingual is a plus but not necessary. If you have some or all of these skills and you would like to share – or if you know people that are looking for a great place to make a contribution – please contact me.

The success of the Community Coalition on Homelessness is due to the ongoing dedication of our volunteers. Thank you for your consideration -- I hope to hear from you.


Cheryl Hedger

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Congratulations Richard Martin!

The Sarasota/Manatee unit of the Florida Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers ( recently honored three local individuals for outstanding contributions in their field. Manatee County school system social worker Richard White was honored as Social Worker of the Year; recent University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee graduate Kerry Gantner as Florida Student Social Worker of the Year; and former Sarasota Mayor Richard Martin as Public Citizen of the Year for his work with the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Suncoast Partnership Receives Grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation
for Plan to End Homelessness in Sarasota County

Sarasota, FL - Early in 2011, prompted by Sarasota County Government, the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness initiated a process to develop a Plan to Prevent & End Homelessness in Sarasota County . With funding from Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the organization is moving forward to produce and begin implementing the Plan.
Gulf Coast recently awarded the Suncoast Partnership a $50,000 grant to complete a long-term strategic plan with goals, leadership, costs, and measurements to better coordinate and streamline efforts to prevent and end homelessness in the Sarasota community. The Suncoast Partnership will present the Plan for adoption by Sarasota County , municipal governments and other community stakeholders later this year.
"The Gulf Coast Board recognizes that homelessness is a multifaceted community challenge that impacts everyone," said Mark Pritchett, senior vice president of community investment at Gulf Coast Community Foundation. "High unemployment and foreclosure rates have resulted in a new economic reality. We need a smart, cost-effective approach to address this regional issue."
The face of homelessness has changed dramatically over the past several years, with 37% of the current homeless population experiencing homelessness for the first time. In 2010, Sarasota agencies provided financial assistance and other services to 4,283 people who were homeless and an additional 11,951 people at imminent risk of homelessness. Additionally, the State of Florida Department of Education recently reported that 1,259 Sarasota County schoolchildren were homeless during the 2010-2011 school year.
Beginning in January, over 600 community members, including many people experiencing homelessness or who had once been homeless, participated in community workshops in North Port , Sarasota , and Venice to learn about and address major barriers to preventing and ending homelessness. Following in the footsteps of communities nationwide, the purpose was to achieve a community consensus on goals and strategies to prevent and end homelessness resulting in reduced community costs for health care, public safety and criminal justice as well as improved quality of life for the entire community. The workshops were led by Sarasota County Commissioner Carolyn Mason and Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness Board Chairman and former public defender Adam Tebrugge.
"This is a community Plan," said Richard Martin, Executive Director of the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness. "If we are to achieve excellence in our mission, community members from across Sarasota County need to be engaged. Everyone is both an ambassador and stakeholder in the success of the Plan." Martin, a former Sarasota mayor, is also Board President of the Florida Coalition on Homelessness.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Advice from Richmond, California

Sunday, April 03, 2011

We need places like this in Florida.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Homelessness: Ten years ago, Last Year. A comprehensive report on homelessness in Florida from ten years ago. 2010 report from the Florida Office on Homelessness.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A community meeting was held on the afternoon of Friday, March 25th, in South Sarasota County. More than 60 people participated and were heard from throughout the afternoon.
One valuable participant was Steve, a laid off union carpenter who is presently homeless. Steve told us about his daily challenges. For instance, there is presently no place in Southern Sarasota County where people who are homeless are able to take a shower. Nor was Steve aware of any place where he could get laundry done.
When Steve discussed his laundry issue, some very energetic women from North Port told us how they had addressed the problem. They had entered into an arrangement with a local Laundromat to purchase and distribute vouchers to homeless citizens. This model may have potential throughout the rest of the county. Learning about strategies like this has been one of the great benefits of undertaking the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.
Other matters that were discussed included:
--We need to do a better job getting the word out about services that are presently available. Probably the best resource that is presently available is the 211 service. People can call 211 and get information about agencies and resources. Some of this information used to be available in a printed book. The problem is that the material would quickly become dated. A representative from 211 pointed out that there are also many eligibility criteria for some of the services and that makes it difficult to make accurate and helpful referrals. For those with internet access, information about 211 can be found here: .
--Representatives from Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) were present. They understand that SCAT buses are an important resource for citizens who are homeless. SCAT works with agencies to distribute vouchers. It was suggested that this voucher program could be expanded to serve more people, particularly if SCAT buses are under utilized. SCAT is also well aware of the popularity and limitations of the bike racks that most buses have been outfitted with.
--Shelter is lacking. Recently, successful efforts have been made to open a cold weather shelter. However, there is little to no available shelter space in Southern Sarasota for the rest of the year. Several participants noted that young men are in need. There is a population of homeless teenage or young males in need of housing. Mention was also made of the increasing issue of opiate addiction and the lack of supportive housing for those struggling to overcome their problems.
--There is tremendous support from the community for tackling these and other issues. I am very grateful to Mayor Holick and councilman Carlesimo from the City of Venice, and command staff from the Venice Police Department, who attended yesterday and listened with open minds. Sarasota County government remains supportive of our efforts and Commissioner Carolyn Mason again led and fully participated in yesterday’s session. And local service providers like Catholic Charities and Jewish Family and Children Services have also given us insight and knowledge.
A meeting like yesterday helps demonstrate the real potential of a group like the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness. Our success comes from the ability to gather compassionate and skilled members of the community together so that we can learn from one another, identify gaps in service, and avoid duplication of efforts. The next community meeting of the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness will be held on Friday, April 8th, at 2:00 pm, at the Church of the Redeemer, 222 S. Palm Avenue in Sarasota.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The next community meeting of the Ten Year Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness will be held on Friday, March 25th at 1:30 at the Sarasota County Commission Chambers in the R.L. Anderson Complex, 4000 South Tamiaimi Trail, Venice, Florida. Join Sarasota County Commissioner Carolyn Mason and the Chair of the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, Adam Tebrugge to let us know your ideas, concerns and strategies.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

23% of the homes in Sarasota County are vacant.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ending Homelessness: A Model that Just Might Work

A special report from NPR

Friday, March 11, 2011


Second Community Workshop on Ending Homelessness in Sarasota

This afternoon, Friday March 11, was the second community workshop in support of the ten year plan to prevent and end homelessness in Sarasota county. We again had a strong turnout of people willing to work, including lots of newcomers and a number of citizens who are presently homeless. The Church of the Redeemer was again our most gracious host and I thank them

Five work groups met for 90 minutes while I led a discussion group made up of three people sleeping in the woods and seven folks who had shelter. Both men who are presently homeless were eager to work despite suffering recent long term unemployment. One gentleman had a successful career as a surveyor but now can’t find work of any type. The other man had recently secured employment, saved enough for rent, but couldn’t afford the deposits. He’s still homeless, as was a plucky sixty-three year old woman who told us about living in her tent, how she spends a cold night, and the lack of anything productive for her to do during the day.

The work groups reported back at the end of the afternoon and everyone seemed to have made significant progress. There is a lot of talent in the room and good ideas are emerging and assignments given out and completed. For the next community meeting, we will be in Venice at the South County commission chambers located in the R.L. Anderson complex, on Friday March 25th at 1:30. Then we will be back in Sarasota on April 8th at the Church of the Redeemer again.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Among the budget recommendations submitted by newly-elected Florida Gov. Scott is an elimination of all funding for homeless grants, programs and services, the elimination of the state Office on Homelessness and Governor's Council and the purging of the homeless statute form the books. If successful, Florida would be one of only two states (the other being Wyoming) without a state Office on Homelessness.

Over the past years, the Florida Challenge Grant have been awarded through the Suncoast Partnership to local homeless service providers to provide an array of support services to people that were homeless or at-risk of homelessness. Last year's included Gulf Coast Legal Services to provide counsel to Manatee and Sarasota homeless residents and to families at-risk of eviction; Jewish Family and Children Services to provide new case management services to establish their award-winning Building Strong Families program in Manatee County, Catholic Charities to provide utility assistance to those in need throughout both counties, and Manatee Glens to provide street outreach to homeless men and women who were suffering from mental illness.

This year, HOPE Family Services and SPARCC (Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center) will use their Challenge Grants to serve victims of domestic violence, The Manatee Salvation Army will provide bus passes to residents to get to and from work, and Catholic Charities will again provide services through both counties, in particular to men and women with HIV/AIDS.
The Sarasota-Manatee community has also received three Florida Homeless Housing Assistance grant to construct a 26-bed apartment building for a year-long program that assists young families with children at the Sarasota Salvation Army. The resulting F.A.I.T.H was awarded the Salvation Army's "Best Social Service Program" in the nation last year, an award given only once every three years; purchase and renovate 18 units of housing for homeless men and women who suffer from mental illness; and build two 10-bedroom homes to house up to 40 men in recovery at Harvest House. Both buildings received Florida Green Building Council and, with the recent award of Veterans Per Diem Grant, most if not all these beds will be dedicated to house homeless veterans.

This is a sampling of what this drastic proposal will mean locally, with similar repercussions throughout the state as outlined below.
Governor Scott's budget proposal:
1) eliminates all Challenge Grant funding which supports local homeless and prevention services. This year 28 continuums received a total of $2,031,354 to provide these desperately needed services.
2) eliminates all staffing grants for local homeless coalitions. This year homeless coalitions each received $12,600 each to support office operations with a total of $345,729 provided state-wide.
3) eliminates the Office on Homelessness along with two (2) staff positions and funding for the Governor's Council on Homelessness. This year the funding level is $436,353 to provide the state support necessary to make local CoCs and coalitions successful.
4) eliminates the Homeless Housing Assistance Grant program. This year $3 million was granted to 6 local communities to create 348 units of housing for homeless individuals and families.
5) does not restore the Homeless Grant-in-Aid program which had provided 80% of all state funding to local CoCs until it was de-funded 2 years ago.
6) prohibits state funding from being used to support Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Programs throughout the state.
7) raids and eliminates the state's (Sadowski) affordable housing trust fund; instead an estimated $37.5 million in documentary stamp revenue in the trust fund for 2011-2012 would be funneled into the General Revenue.
8) and in a final blow, the Governor's proposal actually repeals the authorizing legislation for the State Office of Homelessness, the Council on Homelessness, Challenge Grant program and Homeless Housing Assistance Grant program. If adopted, these innovative, progressive homeless initiatives--10 years in the making--would come to an end on July 1, 2011.

But, all is not lost. The Florida Coalition for the Homeless, Sadowski Coalition and others are working overtime to defeat these Draconian proposals and we need your help.
Rep. Roberson represents a part of Sarasota County and Rep. Steube represents a part of Manatee County and both hold key positions on the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, with Rep. Roberson serving as vice-chair and reportedly not in favor of these cuts.We ask that CoC agencies and members meet or otherwise contact Rep. Roberson and Rep. Steube and explain how this assault on homeless funding, programs and services would impact our struggling communities.

While you're at it, you may also call Governor Scott's office at (850) 488-7146 and other House and Senate Subcommittee members (click on links below for contact information). In particular, Sen. Negron is the chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Subcommittee and we understand that he, Sen. Gaetz and Sen. Oelrich are concerned about homeless veterans, and that may be the tact to follow when you speak with them or their aides.
Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee 2011

House Heatlh Care Appropriations Subcommittee 2011
Please share this email with everyone in your agency community that cares about homelessness in our community, and ask them to contact these legislators and especially their local legislators. Legislators will be home the 1st week of March prior to the opening of the legislative session, and this would be a good time to also meet with them personally.
Thank you for your dedication to those most in need in our community.

Richard Martin, Executive Director Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Are you interested in what Englewood is doing to help the less fortunate in our community? Do you want to join a group of dedicated people working together to help the less fortunate and end homelessness? One person can make the difference in the life of someone struggling to make ends meet. Come join us and see how you can help.

What is wrong with this picture? Our new governor wants to cut out all funding for homeless shelters. Now more than ever we need to help families who have no place to go when they are losing their homes. Your voice needs to be heard, come join us.

The next meeting is Tuesday, February 22 at 6:00 at St. David's Episcopal Church, 401 S. Broadway, right off 776. Topics to be covered, The Ten Year Plan To End Homelessness and the Feed The Harbor, food drive by Publix for our food pantries. For more information call Pat Knox 828-7489 or St. David's Episcopal Church 474-3140

Monday, February 21, 2011

Orlando public feeding issue back in court, has cost taxpayers $150,000 so far:
After five years of protracted legal wrangling and back-and-forth rulings over an Orlando city “public feeding” ordinance, which restricts the sharing of food with groups of 25 or more within a two-mile radius of city hall, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal on Tuesday heard arguments in a rare rehearing of a case that has so far cost Orlando taxpayers nearly $150,000 in legal fees. #
The plaintiffs in the case are Orlando’s chapter of Food Not Bombs, an international anti-poverty activist group that provides vegetarian meals to the homeless twice a week in downtown Lake Eola Park, and the First Vagabonds Church of God, whose congregation is made up of mostly homeless individuals. #

Both groups, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the city for infringing on their First Amendment rights to free speech. Atlanta’s 11th Circuit Court of Appeal agreed to throw out the original ruling made by a three-person panel and allowed attorneys to present their arguments before the full court, with no witnesses or jury. The issue now hinges on one central question: whether or not feeding the homeless in a public park is “expressive speech” and as such protected by the Constitution.

In September, ACLU attorney Glenn Katon explained the rationale for the lawsuit in an interview with The Florida Independent:
That [ordinance] went into effect in August of 2006, and we challenged it right away, filing the lawsuit in federal district court, and inserted six different legal claims as to why the ordinance should be invalidated. After lots of procedural wrangling, we went to trial in May of 2008, before Judge Presnell in Orlando, and several months later got a ruling in our favor on a couple of the claims that invalidated the ordinance.
The claims that we won on were that the ordinance is unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech, because some of the plaintiffs were going out of their way to do these events in the main park in downtown Orlando and be very visible to raise awareness in the community of the problems of homelessness and hunger. So the judge said that was a speech activity, and that the ordinance unconstitutionally restricted it. The other claim we won on was for the other set of plaintiffs, which was a church for the homeless, where the court said there’s no rational basis for this ordinance, so therefore it restricts the free exercise of religion of the church.

Concerns have also been raised over the sheer cost of the legal battle against groups who seek to provide food to those in need, volunteering their time to combat a situation poised to only get worse as jobless numbers continue rising, unemployment benefits dry up and more individuals find themselves in the margins of society.

Noted on the front page of the Food Not Bombs website, alongside a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is the following:
Food Not Bombs shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry in over 1,000 cities around the world to protest war, poverty and the destruction of the environment. With over a billion people going hungry each day how can we spend another dollar on war?

As reported by Central Florida’s WFTV: #
“The issue is whether or not Food Not Bombs can share food with hungry or homeless people in public spaces, like this park, in order to convey a message to the community,” Food Not Bombs attorney Jacqueline Dowd told WFTV. #
But the city has argued that any group needs a permit to serve food downtown, and they only issue two permits a year. #
Food Not Bombs argues those permits infringe on their rights, making it a First Amendment food fight with your tax money.

Over the last six years, the city of Orlando has shelled out at least $148,000 to fight the issue. Homeless groups say that is an awful lot of bread. #
The city says that’s still cheaper than the $234,000 they’d have to pay if they lost the case and had to pay Food Not Bombs’ legal fees. The city also says Food Not Bombs can go outside the two-mile radius of the ordinance and feed until their hearts content.

Some view the move by the Orlando City Council to restrict group feedings in the downtown area as an attempt to conceal the problems of homelessness and hunger. Ben Markeson of Orlando Food Not Bombs told the Independent: #
“They’re trying to get rid of homeless people, and trying to stop groups from sharing food with them,” Markeson says, “because they think it hinders business and growth and redevelopment, so they’re basically putting profits ahead of people.” #
He says the city offered a fenced parking lot behind the Orlando Utility Commission building for groups wanting to feed the homeless, but likened the area — which has no running water and barbed-wire-tipped fencing, and requires a city worker to unlock a gate for entry — to an apartheid scenario.

“Basically what they are trying to do is stage an apartheid-like system in downtown Orlando based on socio-economic status,” he says. “I think that homeless people deserve access to the same public amenities, such as parks, as people who are more affluent. So I oppose the city’s attempt to institute discrimination and second-class citizenship against the homeless. We don’t use a dime of public money, and we don’t want anything from the city of Orlando except for them to stop trying to hinder us in sharing food with homeless people.”

City attorneys argued Tuesday that routine group feedings raised issues of safety and sanitation, and put a strain on city resources, while Dowd claimed that the city had not presented any evidence that the law protected the interest of the park, which she noted the homeless should have equal rights to access. She also argued that the feedings might actually help to deter crime.

Despite the city’s contention that the ordinance “applies equally to everyone, wealthy mansion-dwellers and homeless alike,” local activist Ben Markeson, who participates in the weekly sharings, disagrees, arguing that the true aim of the ordinance is to expel the homeless from downtown. “I seriously doubt that the city would swoop down to arrest the preschool teacher for handing out sandwiches to more than 25 kids,” he says.
In the concluding remarks of the brief, Dowd echoes Markeson’s charge: “[T]he city seeks to exclude people it views as unsafe, unsanitary and displeasing based on generalized, unsubstantiated prejudices and fears rather than on any legitimate government interest.” #
A ruling in the case is not expected for several months, yet given the rarity of the rehearing, homeless advocates are optimistic. While the verdict can be appealed, the Supreme Court only hears about 1 percent of requested cases and as such the Appeals Court decision will likely be final. #

Saturday, February 12, 2011

This Sunday FEBRUARY 13, 2011 AT 7:00PM Eastern Standard Time,
60 MINUTES will feature homeless children and their families
and the rapidly growing problem in the United States due to the

During this very moving segment several homeless students from
Central Florida will share with the nation the struggles that
they are facing from losing their homes and living in motels,
shelters or staying in “shared housing.” They will also talk
about being hungry as their parents struggle to survive the

We have one of our “Beth Davalos” from SC Public School helping
to tell our story. Our hope is that this segment will expose
the issues our children and their families face and gain
support to end homelessness in Central Florida and the Nation.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Launch of the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in Sarasota County:

I arrived at the Church of the Redeemer on Saturday morning around 8 a.m., only to find that a street art show covered Palm Avenue and had wiped out most of our parking. People were already arriving, and by 8:30 it was clear that we were going to need more chairs. Ultimately, several hundred people participated throughout the morning. We had great representation from law enforcement, there were city and county commissioners, service providers, agency heads, representatives from the business community and plenty of concerned citizens. And, perhaps most important, there was a large number of people who are or had been homeless.

After greetings from Executive Director Richard Martin, Father Wallace from the Church, and Carolyn Mason, I outlined the agenda for the day. We began with a report from Cheri Coryea, director of neighbourhood services in Manatee County, who described their process and success with a ten year plan to end homelessness. Then we broke into workgroups focusing on housing, prevention, economic development, safety and outreach, and health and human services. The work groups spent ninety minutes planning a way forward, deciding on goals, and giving homework assignments.

I had anticipated a large gathering and also suspected there would be folks who were not yet comfortable going into work groups, but wanted to add to the conversation. Therefore I led this group of fifty or so people by passing the microphone around and listening to those who wanted to be heard. There was great input from members of Florida Veterans for Common Sense, as well as from volunteers for the Resurrection House, Manasota Adventist Community Services, and those who volunteer at 911 Central Avenue in Sarasota.

Many of the people who are homeless had remained in my group. As the morning went on, they began to feel comfortable discussing the challenges of their daily lives. We heard both praise and criticism of local agencies, law enforcement, and municipal governments. Some had turned their life around, others were still struggling with substance abuse, mental illness or unemployment. I learned of the barriers that people must overcome to get medication, enroll their children in school, or simply to find a place to sleep. The stories told were powerful and impressed upon me the urgency of our project.

We concluded the morning by hearing brief reports from each of the work groups. Now we are attempting to synthesize the information we learned and report back to everyone who participated. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, March 11, at 2:00 p.m. at the Church of the Redeemer. If you want to come work with us, please do, whether you were able to make it to yesterday’s meeting or not. I am very grateful to everyone in Sarasota for your support. Together we can end homelessness if only we have the will to try.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Ten Year Plan To End Homelessness in Sarasota County:
The response has been terrific. Today the Sarasota Herald Tribune published two editorials about the upcoming process to create a ten year plan to end homelessness. The links are as follows: First, the lead editorial
and then the guest editorial, co-authored by Carolyn Mason and myself:

Since the editorials were published I have already heard from a number of interested citizens. I am especially grateful to the medical community. Doctors, P.A.'s, nurses and public health workers have all written to tell me of their efforts to treat and care for the homeless. This kind of input is critical to ensure success of thus process.

Others have written to me to give ideas about creating shelter or using available space. I know a lot of you are concerned with Veterans and putting them in touch with available services. Women and children can end up homeless for a variety of reasons yet escape public attention. This process will give the whole community a chance to work together for the benefit of us all.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Please watch this teriffic film about the important work being done by the Community COalition on Homelessness in Manatee County.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Denver has Success in Attempting to End Homelessness:

As Sarasota begins the process of creating a ten year plan to end homelessness, it is important to realize that other communities have made substantial progress. One of the leaders in the effort to end homelessness is Denver, Colorado. What follows is a link to the PBS newshour special report on their accomplishments.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Update on Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in Sarasota County:
This is a reminder that the community launch of this project is scheduled for Saturday, February 5th, from 9:00 am to noon at the Church of the Redeemer, Palm Avenue Sarasota. All interested persons are invited to come and help us end homelessness in Sarasota County. We are in the planning stages now, but anticipate a series of work groups focusing on housing, homelessness prevention, public safety, employment, and health and human services. Part of your homework to prepare for this meeting is to go to the link below and see how other communities have used this planning process.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Coming Home Homeless :
There is a group of people who have done their part, stepped up, served, gone to war and done everything that has been asked of them without question or hesitation, only to find themselves homeless once that DD-214 is in hand. The Departnent of Veterans Affairs estimates that the number of homeless veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq numbers between nine and ten thousand, but Paul Reickhoff, the director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, believes that is an extremely conservative estimate.
The seeds of the problems our veterans face were planted several years ago and myriad factors have come together and now we are looking at harvesting a bumper crop of effed up. Part of the problem is repeated deployments and the devastation that inflicts on families, especially when those repeated deployments come with inadequate dwell time in between combat rotations, and when combat tours are stacked as close together as regulations will permit, important things fall by the wayside -- like teaching war ethics -- so we have soldiers repatriating that we have misused, abused and damaged psychically. Part of the problem is the pervasiveness of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries and that pervasiveness is due to...wait for it...repeated deployments.
A lot of the veterans who end up homeless are eligible for VA benefits, but the approval process is cumbersome and puts the onus on the vet to prove they have a legitimate claim. Even though 86% of all claims are eventually approved it is not at all uncommon for a veteran to end up homeless while they wait for their benefits to be approved. It doesn't help that without an address, the process can be slowed down considerably.
So what can we do about it? Linda Bilmes, a researcher with the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard has some ideas on that, and she has gone before Congress repeatedly and told them how to fix it for a large number of these veterans, and everyone nods in agreement with her, then they do nothing she consistently recommends.
But not everyone qualifies for benefits from the VA.
One of the factors that contributes to the skyrocketing number of homeless female veterans is the disintegration of families that crumble under the stress of repeated deployments.
Tara Henry was a chemical weapons specialist with the 101st Airborne and served two deployments to Iraq. Her second tour of duty came only four months after her son was born, but while in Iraq her husband filed for divorce and was granted custody of their two kids.
"When I found out about court and everything else, I said, 'You know what? I gotta get a lawyer." Henry says. "So, I was trying to deal with those things while I was in Iraq. So that's where my money was going."
Henry has lived in shelters, hotels, even in a car on the street. She hasn't told her children that she's homeless. "I don't really think they would understand that," she says.
[ ... ]
Tara Henry, the former chemical weapons specialist whose husband filed for divorce while she was on duty in Iraq, has also found a shelter. She lives in a cubicle at the Borden Avenue Veterans Shelter in Queens. And although she hasn't told her children that she is homeless, her eight-year-old daughter knows something isn't right.
"She took all the money that she had and said, 'Hey Mommy, this'll help you buy a house.' So I guess she knows that it costs."
The military has entire JAG offices on every base. Expand the services they offer so Soldiers in Tara Henry's position, be they women or men, don't have to spend every dime they have on legal representation to keep access to their kids -- kids that they likely joined up to provide for.
I think it is time to do everything Bilmes has recommended, especially the provisional approval of benefits for all applicants. That would take a serious whack at the number of homeless veterans, but I think it is time to go her one better and add a step to the outprocessing everyone goes through when they leave the military. Not everyone has a family to go back to. It would behoove us as a society to identify those veterans during the outprocessing phase and help them secure housing and the unemployment benefits they are entitled to.
Back in 2007 right after my friend Alex outprocessed, he and I were chatting via email one evening and I asked him if he had applied for his unemployment insurance yet. He responded back something like "Oh yeah! I guess I better do that."
It hadn't even been mentioned as he was outprocessing. That's one damned sentence to utter, fercryinoutloud, but I would go one better. I would make the application for benefits part of the process, and eliminate any "waiting weeks" requirements for repatriating soldiers, since the unemployment rate for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is 20% -- just over twice what it is for the population at large.
I look at it this way -- it costs a million bucks a year to keep a soldier in Afghanistan. Anyone willing to step up and serve deserves to come home to a roof over their head and the security of knowing not only where their next meal is coming from, but that they have choice in what it will be. That could be achieved for about $30 - 45,000 a year, and you can throw an education or vocational training in the mix at that price tag as well.
I don't know about you, but I believe that would be money well spent. In fact, it would completely redefine the old expression about "spending good money after bad."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Attacking need from all angles:
The notion that society can accomplish any outsized goal may be unrealistic. “Full employment” never will be achieved, when only members of the workforce who really want a job have one. Polio is thought to have been eradicated, but there were two reported cases in the United States since 2005. There always will be someone who needs some form of help.
How then should one define the end of homelessness, and then accomplish that goal? Area nonprofit organizations are going to try.
The Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, a Sarasota-based not-for-profit organization, seeks to live up to its name by embarking on a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Sarasota County, where some 600 people each night — and 10,000 people each year — are counted as homeless. Meanwhile in Charlotte County, where, on average, 626 people are homeless each night, the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition seeks a similar plan to end homelessness in its region.
It won’t be easy, with the economic crisis still in full bloom in Southwest Florida, along with dwindling government and nonprofit agency budgets. So before embarking on their respective plans, both organizations are defining success.
“Different communities choose to attack the plan in a different way,” said Angela M. Hogan, executive director of the homeless coalition. “My goal is to be able to have enough programs and services available in Charlotte County so that every person that is homeless could participate in services, if they wanted to.”
Richard Martin, executive director of the Suncoast Partnership, says the goal — to have everyone housed — is idealistic. He tells people that ending homelessness means “ending it one family or one individual at a time.”
To ensure favorable results, both agencies are mobilizing others interested in the success of their 10-year plans. Cooperation among governments, the business community and nonprofit agencies may result in the more-efficient delivery of services to the homeless population.
Streamlining the process for helping people may be as much a goal of the 10-year plans as it is a tool for achieving the ultimate goal of ending homelessness.
“It might be a case of reallocation of the dollars,” Suncoast Partnership Board Chair Adam Tebrugge said. “If we are spending a large amount of money in our emergency rooms and in our jails to treat this population, maybe there is a smarter way to get people help that actually will save money over the long run.”
One of the focal points of these plans is that they not begin and end with agencies that have the word “homeless” in their names. For example, if Charlotte Behavioral Healthcare is serving the homeless population, it also should receive funds to be able to provide those services, Hogan said.
“Because we are the lead agency, we are the ‘Homeless Coalition’ and we are the direct service provider for all homeless services in Charlotte County, we have earned this reputation as being solely responsible for the homeless problem,” Hogan said. “At the same time, that discourages collaboration and that discourages other organizations from wanting to get involved. So to change that paradigm in Charlotte County is where we are right now.”
Seeking collaboration, but not wanting to lead the conversation, the Suncoast Partnership is starting its effort with a blank slate other than focusing on jobs/ employment, housing, public safety, homeless prevention and health and human services, Martin says.
For her part, Hogan says, “We’re going to evaluate what programs and services exist, identify gaps in those services and develop programs and services that meet those needs.”
Efforts to end homelessness have support from both the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties.
“Five years ago the notion of cities having 10-year plans to end homelessness was naive and risky. No one thought it was possible,” U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Philip Mangano said. “But the new research and new technologies have created such movement and innovation on this issue that it may now be naive and risky not to have such a plan.”
While Charlotte County Homeless Coalition officials are seeking advice from Lee and Collier counties on how to formulate their plan, Suncoast Partnership officials are looking at Manatee County for inspiration. Manatee County embarked on a 10-year-plan to end homelessness more than four years ago.
The Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness officials will conduct a community meeting for anyone who wants to be involved in its 10-year plan Feb. 5, 2011, in downtown Sarasota. They hope to unveil the plan in June of next year. The homeless coalition also will sponsor community workshops before unveiling its plan. Input from past and present homeless people will play a key role in both plans.
Samantha Sumner does not ponder the definition of homelessness, but she studies how to end it every day. Sumner, 33, her husband Scott, 40, and their children Jade, 12, and Hahna, 9, are living at the Homeless Coalition’s emergency shelter in Murdock — residents stay there for up to 60 days — while they try to restore their financial situation, after a yearlong struggle. Samantha is awaiting a hearing to address her disability issues, but the family’s hardship may be easing. Scott recently started a telemarketing job in Charlotte Harbor.
“We’re looking at renting again,” Samantha said.
They don’t have a car, so they’ll look for a home close enough to his job that Scott can ride a bicycle provided by Edgewater United Methodist Church’s bike ministry, Samantha said.
Meanwhile, there’s a help wanted sign in the window of Basia’s Food Mart on El Jobean Road, a short bike ride from the shelter.

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