Willing to Act on Adult Homelessness

Gulf Coast


Finally, some good news on a serious issue that has vexed our community for years: a realistic plan to effectively address chronic adult homelessness.

Congratulations to the commissions of both the City and the County of Sarasota. Our community has been looking for leadership that would break the logjam that halted any positive progress. Now it’s up to us—the community—to encourage the implementation of recommendations laid out in a new report accepted by both governments last month. (I encourage you to read Sarasota: Creating an Effective Homeless Crisis Response System by visiting the city’s or the county’s website or by going to ours at GulfCoastCF.org.)

We should thank report author Dr. Susan Porciau, chief operating office of the nonprofit Florida Housing Coalition, for helping our leaders reach consensus. She recommended that we build on our existing strengths. They include the Family Haven Alliance, which has made family homelessness a relatively rare and brief episode for families. We have well-established, hard-working service agencies already in place that can provide similar services to the chronic adult population. And they have become experts in coordinating their respective services, such as providing counseling, locating places to live and teaching life and financial literacy skills.

Next steps toward implementation have already begun. Both commissions have empowered their respective staffs to move forward on executing Dr. Porciau’s recommendations. Their unanimity is laudable.

We also understand that the desire for results is urgent. Our community’s patience has been taxed by this long-running issue and incremental improvements may not seem transformative. But we learned something at Gulf Coast, along with our nonprofit partners and donors, in creating the Family Haven Alliance. When it comes to this issue, you will experience great successes and occasional failure. You have to prototype, learn from mistakes and continually adjust before results can be scaled. The Family Haven Alliance did not take shape in a week or a month. Now it is viewed as a national model for helping homeless families succeed.

In examining the details of Dr. Porciau’s recommendations before accepting her report, County Commissioner Charles Hines correctly stated: “We’ve got more work to do.” Many stakeholders will have vital roles and responsibilities in designing the implementation plan. At Gulf Coast, we are optimistic and ready to do our part, in collaboration and across sectors. As Dr. Porciau suggests, the fruits of that collective effort “will lead the community to move quickly from recommendations to action, and from action to success.” And that success will improve the quality of life for everyone in our community.

Mark Pritchett is president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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