With more federal funding in hand, County Commission modifies agreement with Salvation Army for services to the homeless

Contract amendments follow funding issues that arose late last summer with Community Services Block Grant award

In a scene from an October 2018 Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office video about the work of its HOT program, a deputy and case manager Nancy Williams talk with a homeless person about assistance they can provide. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

When a federal funding issue arose late last summer in regard to Sarasota County’s payments to the Salvation Army in for services to homeless individuals, county staff offered hope that the matter would be resolved this year.

And it happens, staff’s hopes proved to have been justified.

As part of its approval of its June 3 Consent Agenda of routine business items, the County Commission unanimously approved modifications to two contracts to enable the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) to continue to make use of emergency shelter beds and other assistance to the homeless that the Salvation Army provides in Sarasota.

One of the June 3 items involved an agreement with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), which divvies up federal Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funding to the state’s counties. That DEO contract the commission approved in September 2019 was for $725,130, as a county staff memo noted. The amended agreement will provide the county $914,630, the memo said.

Officially, DEO reimburses the county for payments. Thus, the figure is the total the county could receive, the document pointed out.

In its modified agreement with the Salvation Army, the commission approved the expenditure of $451,092.

The staff memo noted that the county’s Community Action Agency Board (CAAB) met on May 1 to discuss the use of the federal funds for the 2020 fiscal year. “The CAAB recommended continued funding for the availability of County HOT Beds … and continued funding for homelessness prevention and self-sufficiency services throughout the county,” the memo added.

The total expense of 8.5 beds — at $35 per day — was listed as $217,420 in the contract amendment.

This is part of a chart in the amended contract with the Salvation Army. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The previous agreement put the number of beds per day at 15. However, the total number of homeless people counted in Sarasota County during the annual Point in Time surveys required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been declining in recent years. The latest report, issued in late May, showed an overall drop of 40.5% from 2016 to this year.

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

The Salvation Army contract amendment also includes funding for case managers. Those persons work with homeless individuals to help them resolve any mental or physical health issues, so they can transition into housing. The case managers also work to ensure that their homeless clients are receiving any financial assistance to which they are entitled, such as veterans’ benefits, county staff members have explained.

Additionally, among the county’s updated, itemized list of payments to the Salvation Army is an allocation of $36,600 for approximately 61 clients “existing substance abuse treatment” to receive rental or mortgage assistance, with $600 accorded to each person.

Another $60,000 has been designated for about 30 persons to receive emergency rental assistance.

Further, $2,500 was set aside for two “self-sufficiency clients” to receive assistance to gain “skills or competencies required for employment” — such as tuition and registration fees, and funds for textbooks, electronic materials and manuals.