County Commission earlier extended its 2019 fiscal year contract with Salvation Army through March 2020, hoping to make up shortfall in federal funds
In a spring 2017 analysis undertaken on behalf of the Sarasota City and County commissions, a state expert on homelessness issues advised the boards that one key step to reducing homeless in the community would be to provide 30 more emergency shelter beds.
As a result, the County Commission agreed to a contract with the Salvation Army in Sarasota to supplement the 20 beds the City Commission was paying to reserve. The city’s Homeless Outreach Teams (HOTs), working under the aegis of the Sarasota Police Department, had been making use of those beds to help homeless individuals transition off the streets.
Based on actual county demand, the count was lowered from 30 to 15 in the county contract with the Salvation Army for the 2019 fiscal year.
On Nov. 18, the City Commission approved its latest contract with the Salvation Army for its beds.
However, because federal funding that covers the county’s beds did not come in at the anticipated level, county staff won approval of the County Commission to extend its contract with the Salvation Army through March 2020, with hope of making up the funding difference in the next round of applicable grant awards.
The City of Sarasota agreement calls for paying the Salvation Army $700 per day for the 20 beds — or $35 per bed. In a memo to the City Commission, Kevin Stiff, coordinator of the city’s response to homelessness, called those beds “essential to the city’s continued [efforts] to manage homelessness … The beds provide a level of service that is not available to individuals staying on the street or on an emergency shelter [mat] at the Salvation Army.”
The contract also allows the city to increase the number of HOT beds to 30 at the same rate.
Under the terms of the contract, Stiff continued, “The HOT beds provide shelter, security, food and an opportunity of case management from the Homeless Outreach Team.”
The Salvation Army facility is located at 1400 10th St. in Sarasota.
The case managers, Stiff and other Police Department HOT personnel have explained, work with the homeless clients to try to ensure the clients can get the services they need and — in a number of cases — income such as Social Security and disability payments to which they are entitled.
Because the city maintains its contract with the Salvation Army, Stiff also has pointed out, it can enforce the Lodging Out-of-Doors section of the City Code. Homeless individuals who refuse repeated HOT members’ offers of services and continue to sleep on the streets or in public parks can be arrested.
The new HOT beds contract won unanimous City Commission approval on Nov. 18; it was part of the Consent Agenda No. 1 of routine business items. No commissioner offered a comment on it before the vote.
The county situation
Each federal fiscal year, the county receives money from the Community Services Block Grant program, a Sept. 10 county staff memo explained to the county commissioners. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO) divvies up those federal dollars, the memo pointed out. “CSBG [Community Services Block Grant] Agreements have been approved annually by the [County Commission] since 1999, the memo noted.
On Oct. 3, 2018, the memo continued, the county’s Community Action Agency Board (CAAB) met to discuss the CSBG funds it expected the county to receive for the 2019 fiscal year. The total was $190,384, “based on information received from FDEO program management,” the memo added.
Thus, the CAAB members recommended expanding the HOT beds program capacity at the Salvation Army, as well as continuing funding to the Salvation Army “for homelessness prevention and self-sufficiency services throughout the county, and continued funding for individuals completing substance abuse treatment, for rental assistance to enable these individuals to move into transitional housing immediately upon successful completion of their substance abuse treatment program,” the memo explained.
The contract for the 2019 fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1, 2018 — called for services “to approximately 240 individuals.”
“It is intended that the HOT Beds will have low barriers to entry and low demands for stay, so that they are accessible to people who need shelter the most; are focused on moving people out of shelter and into housing as quickly as possible; have robust assessment and diversion processes to most effectively use scarce shelter resources; and are integrated seamlessly into the community’s Coordinated Entry System,” the contract said.
The Coordinated Entry System enables all providers of services for the homeless to enter details about their clients, in an effort to prevent overlap of services and to help ensure individuals get all the assistance possible.
Access to the county HOT beds, the agreement pointed out, is through the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, the Police Departments of the Cities of North Port and Venice, and the Longboat Key Police Department.
The county would pay $35 per bed per day, too, the agreement said.
The county has a Quality of Life ordinance that is similar to the city’s Lodging Out-of-Doors law.
However, instead of receiving $190,384, the county award through the FDEO was $169,173, the memo pointed out.
Funds totaling $94,070 had been carried over from the 2018 fiscal year for homelessness assistance, the memo said. Therefore, staff revised the contract award to the Salvation Army. Instead of $284,454, the total amount was reduced to $263,173.
Staff’s hope, the memo continued, is that it will be able to utilize money from the Fiscal Year 2020 federal grant to make up the difference for the remainder of the county’s 2020 fiscal year. “This will allow for continued service delivery until the FY 2020 CSBG award is received, the Sept. 10 memo said.