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.