Suncoast Partnership to End Homeless working on plan for separate leadership board with more members representing providers of services to the homeless

Work underway as well on a coordinated entry system with uniform standards for providing assistance to individuals in Sarasota and Manatee counties

Ed DeMarco and Shawna Machado listen to comments during the May 10 meeting. Rachel Hackney photo

The Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness plans to have a separate new leadership board for the members of Continuum of Care in place by July, in conjunction with one of a consultant’s recommendations for resolving issues related to homelessness in Sarasota and Manatee counties, the nonprofit’s chair has announced.

A separate board will be responsible for the Suncoast Partnership itself, instead of one board representing both the nonprofit and the Continuum of Care (CoC).

“This is a very big undertaking, obviously, which we’re excited about,” Partnership Chair Shawna Machado said during the May 10 CoC meeting.

The CoC comprises providers of services for the homeless populations in Sarasota and Manatee counties, as well as community leaders, law enforcement officers and elected officials, who collaborate on ways to assist the homeless. The Partnership was established by community leaders in 2005 to support the CoC, its website points out.

“Our intent is to strengthen the CoC and give you all a voice,” Machado added during the May 10 session in the Sudakoff Conference Center at New College in Sarasota. “We don’t have a lot of details at this time.”

On July 19, she continued, the CoC members will vote on the facets of the new leadership plan. It will be sent to all of them 15 days ahead of that session, Machado added.

Ed DeMarco, interim CEO of the Partnership, explained that the facets of the leadership board’s governance will be ironed out during the Partnership’s June retreat. The current Partnership board has “approved a general direction, moving forward.”

Image courtesy Suncoast Partnership

A document posted on the Partnership’s website the following day explains that the Leadership Board will bring “funders, decision makers and community leaders together to [ensure] the entire Continuum of Care works together toward a common strategic plan.” Then a Funders committee “will be established [from that new board] to review the implementation of the strategic plan and its funding,” the document continues.

The proposal also calls for the recruitment of a new CEO for the Partnership, who will have “the skills, experience and proven leadership abilities needed to lead the communities’ efforts to end homelessness and provide direction for the Partnership.”

Last month, both the Sarasota City and County commissions accepted a report by Susan Pourciau, the director of homeless training and technical assistance at the Florida Housing Coalition, who had undertaken the work at the behest of the City Commission. Among her recommendations were the creation of both a community leadership team and a funders group. The former, she said, should establish specific processes for tracking, investigating and responding to performance measures set for the individual programs and agencies assisting the homeless.

The funders group, she pointed out, would be exactly what the name suggests: leaders from community entities — including local governments, foundations and major donors — who are paying to support measures to help the homeless.

Moving forward with the plan

Continuum of Care members prepare for the start of the May 10 meeting. Rachel Hackney photo

During the May 10 CoC meeting, DeMarco said, “Everybody in this room, and everybody who wants to, will have access to all of the documents [related to the new leadership board] well in advance [of the June retreat and the July meeting].” He added, “I really believe that the basic elements of this plan have the benefits for Manatee and Sarasota [counties] to better lead our efforts as a coordinated group towards helping those who are homeless and at risk.”

The separate leadership board will include more members from both counties, DeMarco said.

With two distinct boards, DeMarco continued, there will be “less possibility of conflict of interest between the CoC itself and the nonprofit,” which the CoC selected to be the lead agency for initiatives to help the homeless in the two counties.

DeMarco also noted the goal of hiring a new CEO for the Partnership “who will bring with them the kinds of experience and expertise that will help us in identifying best practices that we can uniformly apply across our CoC.”

DeMarco has been in the interim position since CEO Leslie Loveless retired earlier this year.

In the five weeks he had held the job, DeMaro continued, he had been asked numerous times why the Partnership was moving to create separate boards. “We have a lot of great people who are doing good hard work,” he said. Yet, one problem he has observed is lack of communication among service providers, he pointed out. Just the previous day, he told the CoC members, he encountered a situation regarding homeless prevention that had underscored that problem.

Another example, he continued, is the fact that funding is available for Rapid ReHousing for individuals, but organizations have waiting lists for clients seeking such help. (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 explains.)

Don Hadsell, director of the Office of Housing and Community Development in Sarasota, listens as Susan Pourciau addresses the City Commission on April 17. News Leader photo

With those comments, DeMarco segued into another facet of Susan Pourciau’s recommendations: a coordinated entry system for homeless individuals seeking help in the two counties.

A coordinated entry system, DeMarco pointed out, will provide a uniform set of procedures for how a homeless person enters the process of receiving assistance from area providers and becomes a client of one or more agencies. “[It is] their choice as to what happens next for them,” he added, referring to each individual who will enter the system. “The objective for all of us is to get a person who is homeless … the opportunity for a place to be.”

The federal government has mandated that such a system be in place by January 2018, he noted.
“We know there are big challenges,” he continued, including high rents and a lack of affordable housing. “Can we do a better job of trying to meet the challenge? … I believe we can.”

The intent of the Partnership board, Machado said, is “to bring people together to resolve [the issues of homelessness in the community]. … We’re an open door.”

Establishing the two new boards will not be an easy process, she added. “We want to take our time so we do it right.”