Sarasota Sticks With Logan, Housing First



In a report on homelessness that served as much a proving ground for a new homeless services director as a true update on progress in handling the issue, Sarasota City Commissioners on Monday ultimately plowed forward with a Housing First plan and committed to an approach focused on end results for treating individuals impacted by addiction and poverty.

“I’m looking at this problem through a newcomer’s lens,” said Doug Logan, Sarasota director special initiatives. “There seems to be a groundswell to find resolution to this issue, regardless of what plans are embraced or not embraced.” 

Logan, a New York University adjunct professor and the former commissioner for Major League Soccer, was hired last month amid criticism he lacked social services experience. City Manager Tom Barwin defended the hire, saying Logan’s experience as a combat veteran who made good with his life and became a successful manager would produce results for the city as it tackled a complicated problem.

In an update on the homeless issue, Logan noted that while there is a perception little progress has occurred with Housing First, some 15 separate remote housing projects have moved ahead in the area, financed by more than a dozen funding sources.  The approach to homelessness embraced by the city focuses on moving transients directly into permanent housing instead of shelters, and stands in contrast to a county-embraced plan to establish a come-as-you-are shelter where transients will go before being directed to various social services.

City Commissioner Susan Chapman, a vocal supporter of Housing First, said the city should have hired an expert in implementing such a plan. She placed an item on Monday night’s commission agenda to defund or vote no confidence on Logan’s hire, but the move was not supported by other commissioners. “Before this decision was announced, I almost immediately started to receive strong negative input,” she said. A backlash, she feared, could hurt efforts to get citizens to fund further solutions.

But Mayor Willie Shaw said he was impressed by Logan, particularly by the fact Logan’s backstory involves first-hand experience recovering from substance abuse and taking care of a child with mental illness. “I have heard from so many people who know what to do but have never been down the road,” Shaw said.

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