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Downtown Sarasota business owners on homeless situation

Posted at 6:41 PM, Sep 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-02 13:13:32-04

SARASOTA. Fla. -- The City of Sarasota has a new plan to give one-way bus tickets to the homeless.  We've heard mixed reactions from both the homeless and Suncoast residents on the issue.  But how do local business owners feel about the plan?

"I feel for all the businesses on the street and a couple of them are moving away to the new mall."

Ann Jackson is the owner of PJ’s boutique. She has seen many businesses come and go in her 34 years here on Main Street--and she believes many of the business owners in the area share the same sentiment when it comes to the city taking charge in the growing homelessness problem.

"I wish someone would help take care of that, you know the city I believe that this is a very important thing they must go ahead with."

And as ABC 7 first reported this past week--the city of Sarasota voted to purchase one-way bus tickets for homeless men and women. They’ll be able to travel to where they need to go, as long as a family member is willing to help them out at their final destination. Jackson likes the idea but feels there may be a glitch.

"If they're not going to be received by their families, then who knows where the money is going to go."

Sarasota’s homeless consultant Robert Marbut agrees.

"Sadly, what a lot of cities do is just give out bus tickets and do not do the pre-screening and post-screening case management."

Wendy Getchell, owner of lotus boutique on Main Street, has attended numerous commission meetings on the subject and says services for the homeless should be spread county wide and not just downtown.

"Perhaps in a less central business district, I think services can be offered and not hurt the community at the same time."

In addition to the frustrations of some of the Downtown merchants we spoke to, Sarasota Real Estate broker Marc Rasmussen created an online petition to rally people who are fed up with homelessness.

We tried to speak to a few homeless; some of them said they just didn’t want to be on camera. They simply said they’re voices would not have been heard anyway.