Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Familiar Refrain on Aid to Homeless

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Familiar Refrain on Aid to Homeless

Article excerpt

SARASOTA

COMMUNITY SUPPORT: Head of state agency urges local providers to collaborate

It was not the message local homeless advocates were hoping to hear -- but it was one they have gotten used to.

State and federal money for homeless services is tight. Times are hard. Figure out a way to do more with less.

"Make it work," Tom Pierce, director of Florida's Office on Homelessness, told a gathering of service providers, funders and local government representatives on Thursday. He advised the community to be open to new ways of operating, and to stretch resources by better coordinating homeless services.

"The days of us as individual agencies solving all the needs of a client is over," he said. In an ideal world, Pierce said, information could be easily shared and a provider would just ask, "I got this client, can anyone help?"

Coordination of homeless services has been front and center in community discussions lately.

Thursday's housing summit at Jewish Family and Children's Services was one of many efforts to come up with a more unified approach to addressing a need that's not only apparent on the streets, but also hidden, with families sleeping on friends' couches or in cars.

The agency's first-ever housing summit, which about 70 people attended in the morning, was set up by several agencies that are working closely to address the needs of the homeless, particularly homeless families.

In the afternoon, a smaller group of service providers, civic leaders and members of the business community met for a more focused conversation.

It was a partnership Pierce encouraged.

"Do not be bashful about asking the private sector to join your cause. They have even more resources than the government," he said earlier in the day.

Bringing people to the table who don't usually think about homelessness takes the conversation to a different level, said Phil Gorelick, vice president of programs for Jewish Family and Children's Services.

He said he hopes that "golden threads" of consensus between attendees emerge from the event, and that people pinpoint issues to work on in the future.

As the small groups discussed a couple of specific scenarios -- a mother of four who was undocumented and a father who needed medication -- what emerged was discord between service providers and community members about who provides what in Sarasota. …

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