Over 75,000 families in Sarasota County are one paycheck away from homelessness; these households spend more than one third of their income on housing. SURE has been successful in pressing our County to make zoning changes that benefit smaller, more affordable units. Recently, Sarasota County has changed parking space requirements, mobility fees, and utility fees for smaller, affordable units. These fee changes decrease the cost of smaller units by up to $5000/unit, making them more affordable. While this is a step in the right direction, a more comprehensive solution is needed. 800 communities have implemented housing funds, which have created thousands of units of affordable housing across the country. In 2019, SURE was successful in pressing the city commission to identify potential funding sources for a local housing fund. We’re expecting city staff to deliver a report on these potential funding sources during Summer of 2019.
SURE got the Superintendent to select 5 elementary schools to pilot full implementation of restorative practices, which gives students an opportunity to learn from their mistakes without being kicked out of school. In 2018 over 2400 students were suspended out of school. Keeping kids in school means a better educated workforce, less kids going into adulthood with arrest records, less crime on the streets, and less burden on the family. For an article about school discipline in Sarasota County in the Herald Tribune, click HERE and scroll down to "Community Push."
In 2016, SURE pressed local officials to secure $2.4 million over the next three years for a Comprehensive Treatment Court. This court helps homeless people with mental illness get into 6 months of housing and wrap around services. This court keeps them out of the jail cycle in which so many homeless individuals are caught. 120 people per year will benefit from this court. For a recent ABC 7 piece on this, click HERE.
In early 2015 SURE got the local stakeholders - the State Attorney, Public Defender, and Chief Judge - to support the implementation of Civil Citation in Sarasota for the first time ever. In the fall of 2015 the Sheriff implemented Civil Citation. In 2014 Sarasota arrested more kids for first time, non-serious misdemeanors than Miami-Dade - a county 5 times our size. These kids have trouble getting into the military, qualifying for college scholarships, and getting good jobs. In the first three months of the Civil Citation program, youth arrests have already dropped 77%. Keeping kids out of the juvenile justice system breaks the cycle of poverty, results in a lower crime rate, and keeps kids' futures in tact. For a recent article in the Herald Tribune, click HERE.
SURE gained a commitment from the Sarasota County Commission in 2012 to implement a local hiring initiative, which connects local residents with jobs created by county contracts. This creates a pipeline for employers to receive quality applicants from our county and tax payers who have the first shot at jobs created by their own tax dollars. The local hiring ordinance was adopted in 2014.
In 2011 SURE expanded the scope of the 211 program allowing greater access and more specific direction for those calling with mental health concerns. Now these individuals will be quickly routed to the services they need.
Currently 18 women and 48 men are in the Addiction Recovery Pod in the Sarasota County jail. This program costs taxpayers nothing as it is fully run by the Salvation Army. To date this program has reduced recidivism by over 60%, and more than 1500 inmates have benefited from the program. It was SURE who pushed and got this program into the jails. For more information click HERE and scroll to "Jail Recovery POD Program."
In 2004 SURE got SCAT to expand bus routes to Long Boat Key so lower income workers could have access to jobs there. SURE also got SCAT to expand the times so 2nd and 3rd shift workers have transportation to The Key. To this day, 2,805 passengers per month use this bus line, many of them for transportation to work.