Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Opportunities on Homelessness

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Opportunities on Homelessness

Article excerpt

Sarasota city and county can make progress together

Homelessness is Subject A -- literally and figuratively -- on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting between the Sarasota city and county commissions.

Four items are on tap, and all are important. Yet none is more vital than the need for continuing discussions about the potential for collaboration and problem-solving.

City Manager Tom Barwin has recently met with a work group -- including private-sector and government leaders -- to discuss how Sarasota can tackle the personal and public problems associated with chronically homeless people congregating on streets, in parks and on business properties.

Among the early outcomes of the work-group sessions, according to city-county documents, is Barwin's plan to seek money from a local foundation in order to hire one full-time and two part-time caseworkers.

Those workers would help not only chronically homeless people but the police officers who regularly encounter them. This is an excellent idea: People who are homeless frequently require help navigating the social-service "system" or need guidance in order to accept services and treatment; police officers could use the assistance from social-services experts, so they can focus on policing and protecting the public.

A timely opportunity

Here is a timely opportunity for philanthropists to partner with local government to test the value of funding caseworkers, with the hope of improving the lives of individuals, giving police the tools they need to effectively deal with homeless people and benefiting city neighborhoods and business districts. We hope funding for this project comes to fruition. (In a similar example of private-sector assistance in public issues, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation recently funded, to its credit, caseworkers hired by the YMCA to aid homeless schoolchildren in Sarasota County.)

A positive response by the County Commission to the city of Sarasota's initiatives would be welcome. …

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