Sarasota looks into Utah homeless program


In 2006 the National Coalition for the Homeless ranked Sarasota the number one meanest city in The United States towards its homeless population. According to officials from the NCH, Sarasota’s primary crime was in banning anyone from sleeping in public or private spaces without permission, which leaves most of the homeless population with no legal place to be at night. A 2014 policy of giving the homeless a one-way ticket to their home town was also harshly criticized for merely relocating the homeless instead of addressing the issues that lead to homelessness.

It seems the city has finally caught on: Sarasota officials, along with officials from a number of other Florida cities, have traveled to Utah to look into their nationally successful Housing First program. The program grants housing to homeless citizens without requiring that they pay for services and without demanding that they participate in social programs.

Since the start of the program over a decade ago, Utah’s chronic homeless population has been reduced by 93 percent. Only 15 percent of those who are housed return to the streets.

“Don’t take on the issue of solving poverty,” said Lloyd Pendleton, former director of the Utah Homeless Task Force. “You’ve got homeless people, and they need to be housed. Focus on that.”

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