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New plans for homeless rise from the ashes of failed shelter plan

Homeless man
Posted at 4:48 PM, Sep 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-02 13:13:24-04

SARASOTA, Fla. -- With the recent decision to not build a ‘come as you are’ homeless shelter in Sarasota County, the question remains: what now? Well it seems Sarasota city leaders and community members are not putting the homeless issue on the back burner completely.

In this post-Robert Marbut era in Sarasota County, citizens and elected officials are stepping up...coming up with new ways to help the homeless.

For many of the homeless individuals on the streets of Sarasota there's currently no place to go. In one word...stranded. Now, city leaders are going to try to get these people off those streets and back with family members with a new program called Homeward Bound.

“It's a holistic approach. We don't have a lot of money in it or a lot of resources, but for a few select cases, it may be part of what will work for the individual,” says city manager Tom Barwin.

Bus tickets will be purchased for select homeless men and women, who will 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. “If you don't secure families or a responsible party on the receiving end, chances are good that the people migrate back. We are going to be very careful and very selective and make sure there is good communication with folks on the other end.”

Not everyone will leave. For those who stay, there is a new place to stay.

“We can't fix people. We can only offer them an opportunity,” says Harvey Vengroff.

That opportunity is 125 rooms at an old hotel on the North Trail, being remodeled into affordable housing for low income families. The price: $575 a month.

Vengroff is the new owner of the property. “We probably talk to 3-4 families a week that are living in a car and that are working. If we can put them in a place like this, they can live and prosper and have a dream so maybe they can one day own a house or one day have a bigger apartment.”

So far the city has contributed $1,000 of its own money for the Homeward Bound program. A community member has already matched that amount. The city is relying on more donations in order for the program to work.