Number of homeless individuals in Sarasota County down 40.5% since 2016, latest report shows

City of Sarasota’s decrease 47% over same period, but number of persons rose 10.6% from 2019 to 2020

A graphic shows the decline in the number of homeless persons in Sarasota County since 2016. Image courtesy Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness

The number of homeless individuals in Sarasota County has dropped 40.5% since 2016, the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness has announced.

For the City of Sarasota, the decrease is even higher over the same period of time, the Partnership has reported: 47%. However, the number of homeless individuals in the city rose 10.6% from 2019 to this year, the Partnership said. The count in 2019 was 303; this year, it was 335. In 2016, the number was 632.

Last year, the Partnership reported the total population of homeless individuals in the city had fallen 52.1% from 2016 to 2019. That report noted that the decline for the same period in the county was 38.8%.

The latest data results from the annual Point in Time survey of homeless persons in Sarasota and Manatee counties, which was conducted overnight from Jan. 27 to Jan. 28. The counts, which are mandated by the federal government, are conducted with the help of volunteers.

“While it is not possible to count every homeless person, the methodology used in our communities includes gathering information from those who are in emergency shelters and transitional housing, engaging in outreach efforts in known areas where unsheltered homeless persons may be gathered and a general canvassing in our communities to capture the best picture possible,” the Suncoast Partnership explained in a May 27 news release. “The count allows us to look at trends over the years by using consistent methodology.”

This chart provides details for Sarasota and Manatee counties, based on the 2020 Point in Time survey and previous surveys. Image courtesy Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness

The overall number of homeless persons surveyed in Sarasota and Manatee County was 1,044 in January, a decrease of 8% from 2019, the news release added.

Among other data, the 2020 report says the total number of unsheltered persons in the two counties has fallen 45.3% since 2016, with a decline of 9.3% from 2019. The figure for those who were in emergency shelters or transitional housing in January declined 15.3% from 2016, the report noted; the total — 681 — was down 7.3% from 2019.

Additionally, the Partnership reported that the count of homeless veterans in the two counties was down 30.9% from 2016 to this year. The decline from 2019 was 4.5%.

The number of chronically homeless persons in Sarasota and Manatee counties fell 39.5% from 2016 to 2020, the new report says — from 311 in 2016 to 188 this year.

Further, the number of homeless youth is down 27.7% since the 2016 count — from 119 four years ago to 86 this year.

However, the report says that the number of adult households with minor children who have no home rose 2.9% from last year to this year. Still, the report points to a drop of 11.4% for that group since 2016.

“Our area continues to be one in which affordable and attainable housing are hard to come by,” Chris Johnson, CEO of the Suncoast Partnership, wrote in the news release. “The lack of attainable housing continues to be a driving factor of homelessness as well as the prevalence of families who are one paycheck away from homelessness as identified by the United Way ALICE Report,” he added.

The Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) Report, which is produced by the United Way, provides data at the county and municipality levels regarding the financial struggles of families.

This graphic provides more details about the homeless individuals surveyed in Sarasota County. ‘DV’ refers to disabled veterans. Image courtesy Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness

Still, “One very promising data point coming out of the Point in Time this year is the 23.6% decrease in chronically homeless individuals in our community,” Johnson wrote in the Partnership news release. “This is a testament to the efficacy of our Coordinated Entry System and the commitment of our community to serving those of highest vulnerability,” he added.

The Coordinated Entry System — whose establishment was a recommendation in a 2017 study about homelessness commissioned by local government leaders in the City and County of Sarasota — enables service providers to track each homeless person who receives help. During 2019, the news release noted, that system, “in partnership with and through the commitment of the Continuum of Care partners, assisted 208 long term and high need homeless persons find permanent housing.”

Among other data included in the Point in Time report, the survey showed that, in the two counties, 73.18% of those counted this year were white, compared to 74.01% in 2019. The number of black or African American homeless persons this year made up 23.28% of the total, an increase from 21.5% in 2019.

Slightly more than two-thirds of those counted overall were men, the data show: 67.05%. Additionally, 80.75% were over the age of 24. Another 6.7% were 18 to 24 years of age.

In Sarasota County, the breakdown was 65.22% male and 34.78% female. Additionally, 79.93% of those surveyed in Sarasota County were over the age of 24, with 7.61% ranging from 18 to 24.

This graphic shows demographic details for Sarasota County. Image courtesy Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness

The data also noted that the number of persons in Sarasota County reporting substance abuse issues was 85, down from 91 in 2019 and 339 in 2016. The number reporting mental health problems declined from 104 in 2019 to 81 in 2020, the data show.

The Suncoast Partnership is the bi-county organization that coordinates services for the homeless. It also serves as the lead agency for the Continuum of Care (CoC), which meets every other month, “convening service providers, community leaders, law enforcement, government and homeless individuals for the purpose of collaborating and coordinating services for the homeless,” the Suncoast Partnership website explains.

The Partnership, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization governed by a board of directors, is the collaborative applicant for federal grants for the CoC and the lead agency and recipient of the State of Florida Unified Grant, its website adds.

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