Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness compiles the Annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count

Apr. 26, 2019

According to the latest census in Sarasota and Manatee counties, the number of homeless individuals is diminished, due to community-based efforts that serve the special needs of people who experience homelessness here. This news comes from the latest 2019 “Point In Time” (P.I.T.) count conducted by the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness.

This annual survey provides a glimpse of homelessness in our community by counting homeless individuals over a single night—January 28 into 29 this year. Volunteers cannot identify every single person who is homeless in these two counties on that night, however,  the consistent methodology used from year to year offers the best case scenario as well a useful way to track local trends in homelessness.

The overall number of homeless persons surveyed in the two counties this year was 1,135, down nearly 5% from 2018. Within the City of Sarasota, the count was down by 13.7%, while the total number for all of Sarasota County decreased by 8.2%.  These numbers represent continued decreases from previous years.

For example, the number of unsheltered street homeless in this region is down 40% since 2016. And among particular groups within the overall count, the number of chronically homeless individuals is down about 21% in just three years. Youth homelessness is down more than 31% in that same timeframe, and the number of homeless families with children is down by about 14%.

The community effort to help individuals find permanent homes and increase the likelihood to remain in them involves public and government agencies and law enforcement, nonprofit service providers, philanthropists, and many others who have worked closely together over several years to better our system of services. Although the lack of affordable housing in this region forced 559 new individuals into homeless services this year, that system is now functioning as it should be and is reducing the overall number of unhoused individuals.

In 2017, after the community reached a plateau in addressing the overwhelming number of adults experiencing homelessness and the demands it placed on public services, the City and County of Sarasota adopted a strategic roadmap from the Florida Housing Coalition to create a comprehensive response system for the homelessness crisis.

The plan utilized lessons learned from the systems our community had already created for homeless individuals and families. In addition, the plan incorporated what the community was already building for unaccompanied youth. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation successfully facilitated meetings among the aforementioned agencies, to begin implementing recommendations in the report, creating a Homeless Crisis Response System. Progress on chronic homelessness in Sarasota County includes:

  1. A stronger Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness. The regional organization responsible for coordinating services and supportive housing for those in need through federal, state, and local grants now has better information-sharing through the Homeless Management Information System and facilitates a coordinated-entry system, called OneBy1, that prioritizes help for individuals with the highest need.
  2. Bridge housing. This allows Homeless Outreach Teams from city and county law enforcement to offer individuals a safe place to stay with case-managed services while permanent housing can be found for them.
  3. Strategic philanthropy. Generous local donors have invested $1.5 million in a rapid rehousing program that provides move-in deposits, rent subsidies, and intensive case management to fill a critical need.
  4. New permanent supportive housing. While much more is needed, our community is working to create safe, affordable places to live for homeless individuals with seriously disabling conditions.

In response to the 2019 P.I.T. Report, Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin said: “On behalf of the City of Sarasota I would like to thank you and the entire Suncoast Partnership network, and especially Jon Thaxton and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, for the exemplary effort and, more importantly, the dramatic improvement in responding to the challenge of chronic homelessness.