New City of Sarasota agreement with Salvation Army reserves 25 beds per night for homeless individuals this fiscal year

City has made similar arrangements since 2017, when it settled lawsuit with ACLU over Lodging Out-of-Doors ordinance

This aerial map shows the Salvation Army facility standing at 1400 10th St. in Sarasota. Image from Google Maps

In unanimously approving their Nov. 20 Consent Agenda 1 with routine business items, the Sarasota City Commission approved a new contract for beds provided by the Salvation Army, which serve as a jail diversion for individuals found to have violated the city ordinance banning lodging out of doors.

The city will pay $365,000 to lease 25 beds for this fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, as noted in the formal Agenda Request Form for the commission’s regular meeting on Nov. 20. The funds already were available in the budget for this fiscal year, the form pointed out.

This is a continuation of a program that began as a formal response to a lawsuit filed against the city over the failure to provide such beds, the form also noted.

In June 2017, the city reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over allegations of the city’s “persistent efforts to criminalize the status of those who are homeless despite the lack of an available shelter and a deepening housing crisis.”

The complaint said that enforcement of the city ordinance prohibiting outdoor lodging “when there is no publicly available shelter violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.” All of the plaintiffs were described in the complaint as lacking “a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence,” as well as a permanent residence.

The June 22 settlement said that the city and the Salvation Army “have a longstanding agreement whereby the Salvation Army emergency shelter facility, located at 1400 10th Street in Sarasota, Florida, will accept individuals suspected of violating [the Lodging Out-of-Doors ordinance],” if they are escorted by Sarasota Police Department officers to the shelter.”

The city’s agreement then with the Salvation Army called for the faith-based organization to hold up to 30 beds each night for homeless people that the members of the Sarasota Police Department might transport to the 10th Street facility. The city’s Homeless Outreach Teams (HOT) had been using 20 beds on a regular basis when the City Commission voted unanimously in November 2016 to increase the number, at staff’s recommendation.

The Homeless Outreach Team beds at the Salvation Army are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, “except when routine maintenance and cleaning is undertaken, which shall be done during daylight hours only,” the new agreement adds.

The cost is $40 per day per HOT bed, the agreement notes.

The Agenda Request Form for the Nov. 20 meeting also pointed out that the Sarasota Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Teams (HOT) have case managers who work with homeless individuals, trying to find them housing.

In 2022, the form added, 60 individuals were assisted, with some able to move into permanent housing.

A homeless person camps in Bayfront Park in downtown Sarasota in May 2017. Image from the City of Sarasota

The new agreement with the Salvation Army does refer to the Lodging Out-of-Doors ordinance, Section 34-41 of the City Code. The document says in part, “[I]t is the policy of the City to educate individuals suspected of violating [that ordinance] about the social services and emergency shelter available in the local Continuum of Care and other social service organizations, and encourage those individuals to utilize available shelter as opposed to being arrested or given a  notice to appear in court for a violation of [Section] 34-41.”

The nonprofit Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness supports the Continuum of Care (CoC) for both Sarasota and Manatee counties, as its website explains. The CoC meets bimonthly, the website notes, bringing together “service providers, community leaders, law enforcement, government and homeless individuals for the purpose of collaborating and coordinating services for the homeless.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) created the concept of the Continuum of Care in 1994, the website points out.