Unique collaboration focused on reducing recidivism in Sarasota County

Gulf Coast Community Foundation partnering with Community Assisted and Supported Living and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

This is among the banners on the website of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

“In response to the ongoing challenges of identifying and securing housing” and support for individuals returning to the community after incarceration, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation recently provided a $156,000 grant to Community Assisted and Supported Living Inc. (CASL), the Foundation has announced.

“In February 2020, Gulf Coast partnered with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) to launch the inaugural Re-entry Navigator Program to positively reintegrate individuals into the community upon their release from the correctional facility,” a news release explains. “With funding from Gulf Coast, the Sheriff’s Office hired two full-time ‘re-entry navigators,’ who connect inmates to reintegration programs before and after they leave the county correctional facility,” helping them avoid returning to jail, the release adds.

Since the program’s inception, the release points out, the navigators have connected with 222 inmates in the correction facility, and about 40 individuals annually continue to receive support in the community.

An incarcerated individual gains assistance through the Re-entry Navigator Program. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

To further help individuals when they are re-entering society after incarceration, the release explains, the Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division leadership team, the re-entry navigators, and the CASL leadership team held a joint meeting on Jan. 12. During that session, the release says, “[T]hey envisioned the Transition Inmates to Supported Housing Project (Transitions). With funding from Gulf Coast Community Foundation, this vision was made into a reality.”

The release explains, “Transitions worked with the re-entry navigators to identify potential candidates who would be homeless upon release” and who have behavioral health challenges, to provide them the opportunity for supportive housing.

The collaboration among the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the Sheriff’s Office, and CASL “was groundbreaking from the start,” the release points out.

“Formerly incarcerated individuals are 10 times more likely to fall into homelessness than the general public,” said Mark Pritchett, president and CEO of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, in the release. “This unique collaboration has given individuals a successful reintroduction to the community with the critical supports they need now and in the future,” he added.

“The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office recognizes the value of community partnerships when it comes to reducing recidivism and finding solutions to incarceration,” Sheriff Kurt Hoffman said in the release. “Through our collaboration with CASL and assistance from our re-entry navigators, nine former inmates were placed in housing, along with a strong support system, to help with their transition back into the community,” Hoffman added in the release.

Through the $156,000 grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, “CASL was able to dedicate five beds for this project,” the release notes. “CASL case managers worked with individuals to develop plans for success within five days of admission, coordinating food access, transportation services,” and assistance in applying for benefits, among other aid. “The individuals in the Transitions program have benefited tremendously from the supports,” the release points out.

“The collaborative partners of this project have come to recognize that without stable housing, it is almost impossible for individuals to find a path to mental, economic, medical, and social health,” said P.J. Brooks, chief operating officer of CASL, in the release. “Our goal is to give the program participants the foundational support to begin their journey.”

For more information, visit GulfCoastCF.org.