Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

An Initial Goal to Help Homeless

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

An Initial Goal to Help Homeless

Article excerpt

SARASOTA COUNTY: Consultant eyes housing for families by Christmas


He was waiting in line for the men's room at Blue Rooster on Tuesday night when someone started opining on homelessness. By the end of dinner, seven people stopped Robert Marbut to ask or tell him something about the issue.

Monday night was lighter -- just two people.

"So I'm hoping tonight's not 20," he told health and human services officials at a meeting Wednesday.

In his first trip as a paid homelessness consultant for Sarasota County, Marbut met with people focused on housing families, talked with about 30 homeless individuals, drove by potential sites for a chronic homeless shelter and emphasized the need for a hard count on people living "unsheltered," in camps and on the street.

He continued a tour of agencies that started last month when he came to Sarasota and presented a proposal to address homelessness. Community and government support to hire Marbut -- which had been brewing long before then -- seemed to coalesce after the trip.

City and county officials finalized paperwork on Friday and administratively approved the approximately $40,000 needed to cover his fees and travel expenses. On Sunday, he arrived in Sarasota.

This visit he focused on the north part of the county. During Marbut's next visit, which he said would be in two or three weeks, he plans to spend time in the south and meet with the Salvation Army, which he said was unable to show him their operation this week.

When Marbut visited in July he said agencies need to work together better and provide individualized case management to move people off the streets. People are still thinking narrowly, he said.

"I have yet to meet with anybody who says something nice about another agency yet," Marbut said at a Community Alliance executive committee meeting Wednesday, a comment that seemed to be met with disbelief.

Marbut was particularly excited about two of the agencies he met with this week, Family Promise and Harvest House.

He said Family Promise's program, which has churches sharing responsibility for sheltering families, needs to be replicated by religious organizations in south Sarasota County and by "mega- churches" in north county. …

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