Streamlining Homeless Case Management



Leaders in the City of Sarasota have supported an effort to get homeless individuals into long-term housing, but admit the process, known as Housing First, hasn’t truly reached the implementation stage yet. Officials were directed by Sarasota City Commissioners on Monday night to look at ways to fill the gaps in case management and improve the process of getting transients first off the streets and ultimately under roofs.

But part of that also means breaking up homeless “cliques” and ensuring individuals get disseminated around the county, if not a broader region. “If there is no change in the concentration of depravity, and if we create the same thing without deconcentrating this, it is something further we will have to deal with,” said Mayor Willie Shaw. He was frustrated that a high percentage of the homeless individuals who have been offered housing vouchers have ended up at Janie’s Garden, a low-income housing development managed by the Sarasota Housing Authority. Police Capt. Kevin Stiff said eight vouchers have been issues, seven of which are in use, and three of those ended up going for housing at Janie’s Garden. “But it’s the individual’s choice where they find housing,” Stiff said.

Other individuals have gone to communities including Venice and Bradenton, but officials working on homeless issues say finding landlords who take the vouchers and meet official standards can be a challenging process.  

But not every individual working with the city has gone the housing route. Members of the city’s Homeless Outreach Team, frequently referred to as HOT teams, reported that city employees made more than 5,300 contacts with homeless people last year, and have already had more than 650 such interactions in the first months of 2016. Stiff noted that includes many repeated contacts with the same individuals repeatedly. Along the way, 11 individuals have utilized the Homeward Bound program, having transit provided to return them to a home community. Some 146 individuals have spent time in HOT team beds, and 85 of those have been funneled into existing service programs such as those offered by the Salvation Army, Harvest House or Jewish Family and Children’s Service. 

Major Ethan Frizzell of the Salvation Army said the key to solving the problem is consistent case management, particularly for those newly on the street, so that services can break people out of the cycle of chronic homelessness early. “The best way to make sure we’re not discussing this in 10 years is to make sure those under 24 are not on the street,” he said.

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