Sarasota's homelesness issue is part of a national media spotlight after The Associated Press published a report Friday rehashing the city's recent events over the last two years.
The report, "Homeless are a challenge for Sarasota, Fla.," by AP correspondant Tamara Lush, goes over much of what has been reported by area media and Patch for the last two years:
- Feeding the homeless at parks
- Removing the benches at Five Points Park
- Banning smoking in parks (which has since been overruled)
- The officer accused of throwing a homeless man into a wall at the SCAT transfer station
- The "bum hunting" emails
- The arrest of a homeless man charging his cell phone at Gillespie Park
And then there are the things Sarasota visitors and residents see every day, reported, including the homeless at the SCAT transfer station, at the library, throughout downtown, without much help for services.
The report was originally published on NECN.com in Massachusettes, also appears in The Miami Herald and has been picked up so far by The Boston Globe, The Galveston Daily Times in Texas, The Edwardsville Intelligencer in Illinois.
The story places the blame and crux of the battle between new residents with wealth and says, without a direct source, the AP reports that "they" are pressuring police to run the homeless out of town:
"Newer, wealthy residents in the Gulf Coast city known for its arts scene and beautiful beaches are buying expensive downtown condos so they can live an urban lifestyle - but don't want the problems associated with a city, including the 700 or so homeless people who inhabit the county, the American Civil Liberties Union and others contend.
They also say authorities, including police, are trying to harass the homeless into leaving the town of 53,000 full-time residents."
Because of that wealth and upscale image, homeless have a tough go of it in Sarasota because affordable housing is hard to find, Leslie Loveless, interim executive director of Suncoast Partnership to End Homeless, told the AP:
"We need to look at transitional and permanent housing that's affordable," she said.
The Center for Housing Policy concluded that in late 2011, only 28 percent of the jobs in the area could earn enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment. To qualify as "affordable," rent must be less than 30 percent of monthly income.
One homeless person, James Franklin Jr., told the reporter he doesn't have issues with the city or police, but that respect must be maintained for the homeless.
Is this is a fair, accurate assessment of Sarasota? What does this national story do for Sarasota's image? Tell us in the comments.