New contract for Homeless Outreach Team beds at Salvation Army wins City Commission approval

Agreement will maintain options for teams to reserve from 10 to 30 beds each day, depending on need

An aerial view shows the Salvation Army facilities at 1400 10th St. in Sarasota. Image from Google Maps

With no comment, the Sarasota City Commission this week unanimously approved a $316,250 contract with the Salvation Army, so the organization will maintain 20 beds for homeless individuals in conjunction with the work of the Sarasota Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Teams (HOT).

As the commission requested last year, the new contract also calls for the Salvation Army to give the city the option of increasing the number of beds to 30 at the same rate the city pays for the 20 beds: $35 per bed, per day. The city also can lower its reservation to 10 beds a day, if that number will be sufficient, the contract notes.

The new agreement officially is for the period of the current fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1 and will run through Sept. 30, 2019.

The 2018 fiscal year contract also called for payment of $35 per bed per day.

The item was on the board’s Oct. 15 Consent Agenda of routine business matters.

A memo to the commission from Kevin Stiff, the city’s coordinator of homelessness response, explained, “The beds provide a level of service that is not available to individuals staying on the street or on emergency shelter mats at the Salvation Army. The HOT beds provide shelter, security [and] food.” They also make it possible for case workers to talk with the individuals who accept use of the beds, in an effort to get the persons off the streets and into stable situations, HOT team leaders have explained to the City Commission.

The memo further noted that the funds will assist “in ongoing implementation of the Homeless Crisis Response System,” which the City Commission approved in April 2017.

Susan Pourciau. Photo courtesy Florida Housing Coalition

Both the City and County commissions last year accepted the recommendations of a consultant the city hired, Susan Pourciau, to analyze homelessness issues in the community. At the time she worked on that report, Pourciau was director of homeless training and technical assistance at the Florida Housing Coalition. On Oct. 2, the Tallahassee Democrat announced that she will be the new policy director for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

One measure of homelessness issues within the city over the past year has shown improvement. The most recent data from the Sarasota County Fire Department says the number of EMS responses to homeless individuals within the city was down 2.4% year-over-year for August. However, the city still leads in the number of those responses, the Fire Department report notes.

So far, EMS units have provided assistance in 751 cases in the city during this calendar year, the report notes.

The figure for August was 123, compared to 126 in August 2017. In 86.2% of the cases, the EMS units transported the people to a hospital, the report adds.

Since August 2017, the month with the fewest EMS calls to help homeless individuals in the city of Sarasota was January, when the number was 78. Only 81 calls were recorded in June, the report notes.

Image courtesy Sarasota County Fire Department

Contract stipulations

The city agreement with the Salvation Army points out that the HOT team members offer the beds to individuals suspected of violating the city’s ordinance prohibiting lodging out-of-doors.

The Salvation Army’s emergency shelter facility is located at 1400 10thSt. in Sarasota.

The beds are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day, the contract points out. Occupants of those beds “shall have padding of at least three (3) inches in depth,” the contract adds.

Further, the Salvation Army has to provide the occupants “with reasonable storage for personal property and access to showers and restrooms” and “[n]o person shall be required to accept religious instruction or required to receive counseling or medical treatment as a condition precedent to becoming” an occupant of one of the HOT beds.

Moreover, the contract says, “a person’s intoxication [as a solitary factor] shall not disqualify that person” from using one of the beds.

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