Shelter Moving Ahead in Newtown

Homelessness

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING WEDNESDAY NOV 18, 2015

Sarasota County commissioners are pursuing a homeless shelter in North Sarasota and have rebuffed a suggestion by the City of Sarasota to place a shelter instead on Cattlemen Road, five miles from the center of the city. Also likely to keep moving forward: tension between the two local governments.

Sarasota City Commissioner Liz Alpert was disappointed that county officials on Tuesday rebuffed suggestions from the city that  the county put the shelter at a site at Cattlemen and Bahia Vista Road in exchange for ending a dispute over land where the former city police department stood. “I thought it was perfect,” Alpert said. “It’s near the interstate. It’s right by the Sheriff’s Office, which is running the shelter, so they could monitor it really well.” She worries a site in north Sarasota intended to serve the entire county will be a burden on police in other cities while bringing any associated blight to a site near the Robert L. Taylor Center and Booker High School.

But county officials stressed they have always wanted a shelter near existing social services. While noting negotiations must be complete for the property in north Sarasota, County Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said no better sites have cropped up. “Unless someone is holding out, I’m not aware of any other sites that are waiting in the wings,” he said. He viewed the Cattlemen proposal as a stalling tactic and noted the property was evaluated for a shelter two years ago before being ruled out for not meeting criteria. “It’s another example of how the city is not very serious about this,” he said. 

Alpert said she is frustrated county commissioners all express a desire for the governments to be working together even as communication continues to falter. “I’m not sure why things have gone the direction that they have,” she said. But Caragiulo expects tension will exist until a shelter opens, at which point police in the city will find it useful. “The city is going to bring homeless people into the shelter we build,” he said. “It’s very simple.”

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