Working to Enhance the Downtown Experience


News about issues regarding homelessness in downtown Sarasota and surrounding areas.

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  • Thu, May 16, 2024 11:03 AM | Robin Parsons (Administrator)


    Trying to determine the number of people who are homeless in Florida and more specifically in the City of Sarasota based on a one day count of those on that day who are experiencing homelessness is at best a single data point for one day out of 365. It becomes somewhat useful when there is a series of one day counts occurring on approximately the same day for a number of years in a row. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been collecting this one day data from local communities through a system of designated lead agencies since 2007, and the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness has been the designated agency for Sarasota and Manatee Counties to report our local data to HUD.

    After the 2023 count, the latest year for which data has been reported by HUD, the alarm bells went off followed by a number of panic decisions in many states and local communities including Florida. In 2023, HUD reported 653,104 people experiencing homelessness in the United States including 30,756 in Florida. This 12% increase nationally over the prior year 2022 on the count on one day in January and 18.5% in Florida is reason for concern, and the State officials need to be alert and asking questions. However, passing statewide legislation in a knee jerk reaction based on global data for the whole state penalizes the efforts being made by some local jurisdictions like the City of Sarasota. When comparing the data since 2017 for the City of Sarasota, it becomes evident that persons experiencing homelessness had been trending downward until the data reported during the Covid era and its recovery period. Furthermore, when looking at the various segments of the homeless population for the City, it is obvious we should be proud of our accomplishments, and be cautious in racing to a fix something that may not fix our issue with persons experiencing homelessness, and may even exacerbate the problem; e.g., we report 52 persons who are chronically homeless in the City. A number in 2017 that was 137, a decline of 62%. When all segments are taken together, the results are trending in the right direction as well – 867 persons counted as experiencing homelessness in 2017, and 583 in 2023 -- a decline of 33%.

    Stay the course Sarasota and we will, with compassion and common sense, manage our issues in

    A very manageable way.

    Peter Fanning - Homelessness Committee Chair

  • Thu, November 05, 2020 12:17 PM | Robin Parsons (Administrator)

    Second Heart Homes, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing permanent housing to those with mental illness who have experienced or are at-risk of homelessness. Our goal is to provide long-term solutions that revive dignity and enhance quality of life through self-sufficiency.

    Second Heart Homes meets people where they are at and finds the best quality of life through building independence. This restoration of dignity is accomplished through the Second Heart Housing Program. A client-centric approach is applied where individual needs are identified and adapted as clients experience new challenges and growth.

    Since receiving our 501(c)(3) designation last year, we have purchased two homes that provide hope for twelve individuals with severe mental illness coming off the street. We also warmly welcome our newest employee, Maya, who has a background as a behavior analyst.

    Second Heart Homes received the Michael Saunders Company Foundation grant in June of this year. The funds were used to launch a pilot skills-training workshop that has already had its first successful graduate. Nick learned competencies related to accountability, communication, computer literacy, conflict resolution, critical thinking, financial planning, peer mentorship, public speaking, and time management. Nick was able to have all his court fines removed through community service and was escorted by a local judge as he received his right to vote and participated in this year’s election.

  • Wed, June 24, 2020 11:12 AM | Robin Parsons (Administrator)

    Each year the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, Inc. (Suncoast Partnership) on behalf of the
    Sarasota/Manatee Continuum of Care compiles the Annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count. This survey
    provides a snapshot of homelessness in Sarasota and Manatee County on a single night, January 27 to
    January 28 of 2020. 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
    count allows us to look at trends over the years by using consistent methodology.
    The overall number of homeless persons surveyed in Sarasota and Manatee Counties is 1,044, a
    decrease of 8% from 2019. The count for Sarasota County decreased by 4.1% while the Manatee County
    count decreased by 12.4%.
    Chris Johnson, CEO of the Suncoast Partnership talked about the results of the count.
    “Our area continues to be one in which affordable and attainable housing are hard to come by.
    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. 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. This is a testament to the
    efficacy of our Coordinated Entry System and the commitment of our community to serving those
    of highest vulnerability. This focus coupled with Housing First best practices, the Permanent
    Supportive Housing and Rapid Rehousing interventions championed by our local Service
    Providers, and the commitment from the counties, cities, and our philanthropic partners has
    made this possible. The 9% drop in unsheltered homeless individuals and families is also to be
    commended as this shows the outcome of outreach efforts and connection with those
    unsheltered individuals by moving them through community’s Homeless Crisis Response System
    towards housing.”
    During 2019, the Oneby1 Coordinated Entry 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.
    The PIT count is conducted by community volunteers using a survey tool which provides a means for
    gathering information directly from individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The PIT results,
    along with other data and information, help inform the Sarasota and Manatee County Continuum of
    Care (CoC) as they plan to address the needs of those who are homeless and those at imminent risk of
    The Federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (as amended) authorizes the U.S. Department of
    Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to require the PIT count in all Continuums of Care.

    June 24th, 2020

  • Sat, April 18, 2020 11:16 AM | Robin Parsons (Administrator)

    April 2020, Sarasota, FL.

    Second Heart Homes, Inc. just announced the addition of a new house to their mental health housing program! This will have a major impact by getting 6 individuals with severe mental illness off the street and into the lives they deserve.

    This will bring a ray of hope to our Sarasota community as many agencies that help the homeless are unable to continue with regular services during these difficult times. Although Second Heart Homes is full speed ahead, some difficulties exist relating to COVID-19. The Paycheck Protection Plan is experiencing severe delays and fundraising efforts are significantly hindered.   Second Heart Homes, Inc. is a Giving Challenge Partner.

    If you’d like to learn more to help, please visit or contact Megan Howell at 941-201-9353 or email at

    April 18th, 2020

  • Thu, February 13, 2020 11:49 AM | Robin Parsons (Administrator)

    According to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute, Florida ranks 49th out of 50 states in funding of mental health services.  Sarasota County wants your feedback on whether a referendum to fund the establishment of a local Mental Health Special Dependent District (MHSDD) through an increase in millage (Property Taxes) should be placed on the Nov. 3, 2020, ballot.

    millage rate is the tax rate used to calculate local property taxes.  The millage rate represents the amount per every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.  Assigned millage rates are multiplied by the total taxable value of the property to arrive at the property taxes.  A millage increase could provide dedicated funding to expand the mental health services provided to Sarasota County residents.

    Per Florida Statutes, a MHSDD may be established by Ordinance or a Referendum only; however, this proposal is to establish a MHSDD via voter Referendum, and the Board of County Commissioner would be responsible for: selecting the mental health programs and services to be funded; approving the annual budget; setting the annual millage; and, the MHSDD’s Revenue/Expenditures would have its own fund within the County Budget and would be included in the County’s financial statements. The range of services the MHSDD would provide is dependent on the amount funding derived from the millage increased through the referendum.

    Feedback from this survey will be presented to the Sarasota County Commission in March 2020. Find information about programs currently funded by Sarasota County and Take the Survey (at bottom of page) here: Mental Health District Programs

    February 13th, 2020

  • Sun, December 22, 2019 11:54 AM | Robin Parsons (Administrator)
    December 2019 – 

    The long worked-for dream of Megan Howell and Barbara Raskowski to fund more homes for people without homes has finally come to fruition with the establishment of Second Heart Homes, Inc. as a not-for-profit corporation, approved for charitable contributions under IRS 501(c)3 rules.

    Second Heart Homes, Inc.  



    Our Mission is to revive dignity for the homeless and mental health community through housing, support and love.


    The Second Heart Program is a supportive housing program that gets people off the street by providing robust services through housing, daily support, mentoring and workshops.


    You can help by donating so we may continue to run our program.  Donations will help to increase staff services in order to serve more clients.


    Second Heart Homes, Inc. – [a 501(c) 3  not-for-profit organization]

  • Mon, October 07, 2019 11:19 AM | Robin Parsons (Administrator)

    The DSCA Committee on Homeless took a page from the very successful “Three E’s” program of the City of Sarasota Police Department of Educate, Encourage and Enforce to assist persons without homes. The DSCA’s program of EducateEncourage and Activate is designed to improve the understanding and knowledge of the DSCA membership and residents while at the same time reducing the misinformation and often prejudicial perceptions that many people have toward persons without homes or at severe risk of being without a permanent home.

    Given that one of the most significant issues that residents are concerned about involves the efforts being made to assist persons without homes in downtown Sarasota.  DSCA sees the need to expand our efforts on this topic.

    DSCA’s program of Educate, Encourage and Activate includes strategies to use current online tools to more effectively communicate accurate, timely information to residents, businesses and visitors to Downtown Sarasota.  The program strategies will explore options to achieve these goals:

    • Establish a broadly accessible, user friendly, multi-functional homeless section information link on the present DSCA website dedicated solely to the issues of homelessness in Sarasota and, when relevant, from other jurisdictions throughout the U.S.
    • Establish an interactive method for DSCA member associations and their residents to communicate with select “expert” commentators regarding local issues of homelessness.
    • Present public workshops to update and inform residents on the progress being made in Sarasota to address the issues of homelessness.

    DSCA is pursuing partners to collaborate and coordinate on methods to expand public access to helpful information, along with channels for specific public concerns to be raised and addressed.  Stay tuned for further announcements as this important program progresses. Individuals, businesses and organizations who wish to collaborate should contact us at:


    October 7th, 2019

  • Wed, July 10, 2019 1:19 PM | Robin Parsons (Administrator)

    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.

    July 10th, 2019

  • Wed, March 06, 2019 1:33 PM | Robin Parsons (Administrator)

    Mar. 6, 2019  –  The City of Sarasota and Sarasota County receive Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnership (HOME) and Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funds from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). One of the grant requirements is that we notify adjacent governments that Sarasota has prepared their 2019 – 2020 Action Plan and allow them to have the opportunity to comment on the plan. A copy of the Action Plan may be found on our website:

    If you have any comments on the proposed 2019 – 2020 Action Plan, please send them in writing by April 13, 2019 to:

    Cindy Emshoff
    Sarasota Office of Housing and Community Development
    111 South Orange Avenue
    Sarasota, Florida 34236

    Thank you very much,

    Cindy Emshoff
    Interim General Manager Office of Housing & Community Development
    111 S. Orange Avenue
    Sarasota FL 34236
    (941) 951-3640 ext. 3780,
    FAX: (941) 951-3647

    March 6th, 2019

  • Wed, April 11, 2018 12:06 PM | Robin Parsons (Administrator)

    YouTube Playlist: DSCA Forum on Homelessness – Doing Good Even Better

    The Francis, 1289 Palm Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236

    5:30 P.M. – 7:15 P.M. 

    We have a panel of “blue sky” people, because when they see rain, they are able to feel sunshine. There is not a panicking-prone one in the lot, and they are working so you too can see a little more blue in the sky relative to persons in our community without homes.


    • Jon Thaxton, Senior VP, Gulf Coast Foundation, MODERATOR

    What impressed me most [about these panelists], they had one goal in mind – treating these homeless individuals like people; treating them with respect and giving them an opportunity to attain the highest level of self-sustainability that they possible could.


    • Kevin Stiff, Coordinator, Homeless Response, City of Sarasota

    April 11th, 2018

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About DSCA

The Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association (DSCA) is the designated neighborhood organization to represent the interests of the condominium associations, townhomes, apartments and their residents, that are within the greater Downtown Sarasota.

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