Annual count of homeless individuals shows 34% drop in Sarasota County from 2017 figure

City of Sarasota figure down 18%

An apparently homeless man sleeps on a bench in Bayfront Park in May 2016. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The total number of homeless individuals counted in Sarasota and Manatee counties this year declined 18% from the figure for 2017, the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness has announced.

The figure for Sarasota County dropped 34%, while the number counted in the city of Sarasota declined 18%, the report says.

“Nice way to begin a weekend!” City Manager Tom Barwin wrote in an April 20 email to the city commissioners.

However, the total for homeless families was up 8% in Sarasota County; the report notes. It was down 8% in Manatee County.

The Suncoast Partnershipcoordinated the taking of the census on the night of Jan. 29.

For the two counties combined, the number of homeless persons decreased from 1,447 in 2017 to 1,192 in 2018, Edward DeMarco, CEO of the Suncoast Partnership, reported on April 20. The 2016 total was 1,468.

“The [Point in Time] information should always be kept in perspective,” he wrote in a news release. “[I]t is a snapshot in time of literally homeless persons on the street or in shelters during a 24-hour period that began January 29th,” he added. “It is only one data point to consider in evaluating the totality of needs for homeless services,” he continued.

For example, from Oct. 1, 2017 through March 31, he wrote, the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) “indicates that 4,376 unique persons in Sarasota and Manatee were determined to be literally homeless and received services, including outreach, emergency shelter and housing services,” with rapid re-housing among the latter, DeMarco pointed out.

(According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Rapid ReHousing “connects families and individuals experiencing homelessness to permanent housing through a tailored package of assistance that may include the use of time-limited financial assistance and targeted supportive services.”Such programs “help families and individuals living on the streets or in emergency shelters solve the practical and immediate challenges to obtaining permanent housing while reducing the amount of time they experience homelessness,” a HUD document says.)

The 2018 Point in Time report includes these statistics. Image courtesy Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness

On its website, the Suncoast Partnership explains that the survey each year is “an important metric for measuring Federal and local progress in preventing and ending homelessness.”

HUD requires all continuums of care to conduct an annual Point in Time survey and to report the data as part of their yearly applications to the federal government. The Suncoast Partnership is the lead organization for the Continuum of Care for Sarasota and Manatee counties.

In August 2017, the Continuum of Care elected 15 people to a new Leadership Council to serve with 10 who had been appointed. The members are leaders in education, homeless services, government, business, law enforcement, homeless advocacy, health care, the faith-based community, veterans’ services and financial contributors, the Suncoast Partnership website points out. The council’s establishment was one of a series of recommendations a consultant made to the City and County commissions in April 2017, which were designed to markedly reduce homelessness in the area.

The HMIS is a database that includes details about the services each homeless person receives in the two counties. The Suncoast Partnership manages the HMIS.

The 2018 report offers this breakdown of demographics. Image courtesy Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness

Among the other statistics produced by the 2018 census are the following:

  • The number of homeless veterans dropped 26% year-over-year, from 149 in 2017 to 108 in January.
  • The number of chronically homeless people declined from 285 in 2017 to 250 this year, marking a 12% shift.
  • The number of homeless youth fell 5%, from 121 in January 2017 to 115 this year.
  • The majority of individuals surveyed — 967 — were age 25 or older; 160 were under the age of 18.
  • The total number of males was 759; females, 430. Three transgender individuals were included in the survey.
  • A breakdown on race showed 846 were white, 262 were African-American and 54 represented multiple races.
  • Of those surveyed, 151 were adults with a serious mental illness; 121 were adults with a substance use disorder and 117 were adult survivors of domestic violence.