Collaborate for Housing on the Suncoast

Guest Correspondence

What will it take for Sarasota to house 100 homeless individuals in the next 100 days?

That’s the question the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness is trying to answer with the launch of a brand new housing initiative called the Suncoast Housing Collaborative. The 100-day challenge is in response to our local housing crisis. 

According to current figures, over 1,000 people are experiencing homelessness in our area, many of whom are families (164) and seniors (386). The solution to homelessness is housing, however our local inventory is at historical lows and the construction of new units cannot happen quickly enough to accommodate the ever-growing need. 

Housing vouchers from the Sarasota Housing Authority are available in our community to offset the cost of housing but again, move-in units are not available. Right now, 29 individuals have a housing voucher but cannot find a place to live because of a lack of units available. An additional 60 individuals have a housing voucher application in progress, but again, will not have any options once their applications are complete. 

Help arrived last March when housing expert, Lizzie Goddard, visited our community to guide us in replicating her wildly successful Nashville Residential Collective Model based in Tennessee. With landlords as part of the solution, the idea is to work directly with them to house those most in need. Based on Goddard’s successes and advice, the SPEH convened their partners, interested community members, and funders to create the Suncoast Housing Collaborative. 

The purpose of the SHC is to partner with and incentivize local landlords to work with individuals and families who face additional barriers to accessing permanent housing. These barriers include previous evictions, low income, and/or criminal history, which further limit an already small pool of available housing. The collaborative supports a Housing First model by connecting people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity to permanent housing as a step towards self-sufficiency. 

Proactive case management and support is a fundamental way the SHC will support clients and help to ensure successful tenancy. These services include case management, mental health supports, life skills training such as budgeting and home management, and access to addiction recovery assistance.

Additional incentives to landlords include sign-on bonuses for being a member of the collaborative, a $2,000 bonus for the first five units leased and an additional $500 bonus for each additional leased afterwards, quarterly check-ins from SHC, and access to a risk mitigation fund and mediation services in case of tenant disputes. If a tenant abruptly leaves, the collaborative will pay that month’s lease and find a new tenant.

Here is where you can help. The SHC is kicking off this initiative with “100 Housed in 100 Days” in conjunction with its website launch. The public will be able to see on the website the progress towards this ambitious goal.  Gulf Coast Community Foundation is a proud partner of these efforts by supporting their website design and maintenance and their consultant services, in partnership with Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, and both Sarasota and Manatee counties. 

If you are a landlord interested in working with the Collaborative to be a part of the solution, please contact Lauren Bowen, Housing Project Manager with the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, at 941-955-8987 or email her at SHC@suncoastpartnership.org. Additional information about the collaborative can be found at suncoasthousingcollaborative.org.

Together, we can all work towards a solution to affordable housing.

Kameron Hodgens, Ph.D., is a Director of Community Leadership at Gulf Coast Community Foundation. 

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