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Sarasota County opts out of homeless shelter plan

Safety Harbor homeless facility tour
Posted at 4:45 PM, Aug 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-02 13:13:32-04

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Earlier this year, Dr. Robert Marbut made several recommendations to solve the area’s homeless problem. Among them was the idea to construct a ‘come as you are’ shelter. But after months of back and forth, it seems the homeless shelter won’t be constructed anytime soon.

From 65 possible now zero. County commissioners voted to no longer pursue the recommendation to build a 250-bed Public Safety Triage and Stabilization Unit for the chronic homeless population.

“I’m just disheartened." Julie Marotzke is one of many homeless people who says she would benefited from the shelter, because she's currently ineligible to stay for free at the Salvation Army. "If they deem that you have not progressed enough -- in my case they said my hope number hadn't changed…I hadn't gone backwards and I hadn't gone forwards, which was not actually the case. But no matter what I say I’m wrong, because I’m on the wrong side of the shelter desk."

Marotzke says if you're not eligible for a program, the Salvation Army charges $7 a night -- a price she can’t afford.

Because of that, she says she's been living in a tent since February. "It’s really hard to get a job and convince someone to hire you when you wake up in the morning outside."

County officials say they understand the cycle. That is why they'd hoped for a different outcome. “It was a tough decision, but without the cooperation of the city, where most of the homeless population resides, we couldn't go it alone. And without the sheriff's help, and the sheriff was pretty clear to us that he didn't intend to proceed if the city wasn't involved," says Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta.

In July, Sarasota city officials announced they were no longer interested in constructing a ‘come as you are’ shelter. The group has cited construction cost, and the possibility of creating an environment that would attract more homeless to the area, as some of the reasons for not moving forward.

"I feel bad for the city residents. I think the city commission is going to have to deal with this, step up to the plate. And we're going to continue to focus on the rest of the county.”

In the meantime, homeless people like Marotzke say they can't help but be disappointed. "I feel like I definitely chose the wrong county and the wrong city to fall down."