For Some, A Year Worth Remembering

Guest Correspondence

BY MARK PRITCHETT SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY DEC 19, 2020

As we end a uniquely difficult year, I knew I could count on some good people to remind me what’s right in our world.

I am talking about a humble group of Gulf Coast Community Foundation donors who helped make it possible for more than 200 chronically homeless individuals in our region find permanent homes this year. These previously homeless individuals are the ones who have “highest acuity of need.” That means they were homeless for long periods of time—most often years—and suffer complicating challenges like mental illness or addiction.

Take, for instance, James. We heard James’s story from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. While he was serving a felony sentence in the county jail, James expressed interest in help. He began working with a team of “Reentry Navigators,” who then connected him with the county’s Homeless Outreach Team upon his release.

James was able to get shelter and services from The Salvation Army, where he reactivated the disability benefits that were discontinued during his incarceration. His history of homelessness and his disability qualified him for the Suncoast Rapid Rehousing program, run by St. Vincent de Paul CARES. The good people there helped James move into his own apartment, where he continues to receive case management from them while working toward the full independence he set as his goal.

This is a safety net that Gulf Coast Community Foundation has knitted together with our donors and our many outstanding nonprofit and government teammates, including Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness. They’d tell you that the success achieved by James and others is reward enough. But I still want to thank them, on behalf of so many in our community who are turning a hopeful page in a home of their own this year-end.

What inspires me most about James’s story is that, together with our donors, we’ve created a safety net that catches those who want to be helped. When you think about year-end giving, your charitable works can do more than patch a hole. You can be part of a team that together helps not just one individual, but hundreds within a year.

This past year has been one that many people will want to forget. But it’s worth remembering how philanthropy—literally, love of humanity—continued to flourish, making this year a positively unforgettable one for neighbors like James.

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

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