City of Sarasota temporarily stops nonprofits service helping the homeless

SARASOTA – Streets of Paradise, or SOP, has made it their mission to help those living on the streets find housing, a job and ultimately avoid becoming homeless again.

Their goal? To provide a safe and clean location where they can shower, wash some laundry, and  even pick up a new outfit. All with the hope of helping them stay off the streets. But the City of Sarasota is putting an end to that.

“I really don’t know how we got to where we gotten because of very bold and hurtful statements of you’re not needed,” said Bryant.

Director of Operations for Streets of Paradise Cathy Bryant says SOP has provided weekly shower days every Sunday on the corner of 8th Street and Central Ave. Providing hygiene services to the homeless population of Sarasota.

But city officials tell them in order to proceed with the shower services they are required to have a permit.

“While the permitting process may be inconvenient it is essential that what we’re putting in our community is what’s wanted in our community,” said Kevin Stiff.

Stiff, the Coordinator of the Homelessness Response for the City of Sarasota, says SOP’s services are redundant. Under Sarasota County’s Continuum of Care program countless of other organizations offer the same services. But he says SOP just enables the homeless from wanting to get off the streets.

“We don’t believe in allowing people to stay in shelters for free accept services without an outcome,” said Stiff. “We want people to become part of the actual system that moves people to either jobs or housing.”

Bryant says SOP doesn’t enable the homeless to stay living on the streets with their food shares or community shower days. But rather builds relationships and be that source of support that the chronic homeless need when they aren’t viewed as people.

“There’s not a quote win in this other than we want to be allowed to love and we want to be allowed to continue to provide these services to the people that need them the most,” said Bryant.

She invites city officials to come out and see the good these showers provide for the individuals that rely on SOP’s service.

For now SOP has chosen to exit Sarasota County’s Continuum of Care program and hopes to continue talks with the city about resolving this matter; all while putting smiles on the faces of those who are one of the most underrepresented across the Suncoast.

The permit process SOP would have to submit would have a six month waiting period. Stiff says the long process is to hear from the community as to whether or not the service is needed.

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