A survey conducted by the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness announced a sharp increase in the number of homeless men, women and children living in the Suncoast.
As of January 2013, there were 1,234 homeless people in Sarasota County and 820 Homeless people in Manatee County. Leslie Loveless, who works with the Partnership, said that the organization has seen the homeless populace double since 2011. According to Loveless, recent home foreclosures account for the rise in homeless families.
Third-year Grace Fisher helped enter data for the Suncoast Partnership survey in 2011. She said that the spike in numbers was partially due to the fact that the Partnership has been able to reach out more to the homeless populace in recent years and thus garner a more accurate population count. The count is done over the course of a day.
Fisher works at Resurrection House, a homeless shelter located downtown, and has been active in helping the Sarasota Homeless since her first year. She said that Sarasota lacks transitional housing and women’s shelter for homeless people. Many homeless women are victims of sexual assault.
Third-year Niko Segal-Wright is studying the criminalization of the homeless population in Sarasota for his thesis.
“I think it [Homelessness] is the biggest issue of oppression and marginalization that we face in Sarasota today.”
Sarasota city government has passed lodging, pan handling and open-container ordinances, as well as trespass laws, that criminalize the homeless. Additionally, the government has ordered that bars be placed in the middle of park benches to prevent the homeless from sleeping on them.
“Another problem that the homeless face is finding second-chance employers,” Fisher said.
Many employers don’t employ individuals with a criminal record.
`“And when homelessness is a crime and people are not getting jobs – [because of] sleeping outside and being on private property, that is a major problem,” Fisher concluded.