A critical new component of the system of services being built to help Sarasota's chronically homeless is now up and running.
The Suncoast Rapid Rehousing Program, operated by St. Vincent dePaul CARES, is fully staffed and operating out of the Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center — an ideal location for its collaborative work. The program began accepting client referrals from partner agencies in April and moved its first clients into housing earlier this month.
“This is the next big piece in the true system of care our community is creating to assist homeless adults,” said Jon Thaxton, senior vice president for community investment at Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Jon has has played a lead role in convening city, county, law-enforcement, and nonprofit leaders to improve coordination and delivery of services for chronically homeless adults and, before that, homeless families with children.
The gift of an entrepreneurial donor to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County quietly made this latest venture possible, and that generosity inspired several Gulf Coast donors to invest as well. The rapid rehousing program is being operated by SVdP CARES through a grant administered by Gulf Coast.
“Single most important component”
Rapid rehousing is designed to quickly move homeless individuals or households into a leased rental unit that already exists in the community. These clients typically receive financial assistance and appropriate support services while stabilizing in their new home. Evidence shows that providing services after someone has been moved into housing makes those services significantly more effective.
In its April 2017 report on creating an effective homeless-crisis response system in Sarasota, the Florida Housing Coalition called rapid rehousing “the single most important component of the system designed to, and proven effective to, quickly and significantly decrease homelessness in any community.” The study noted that “the Sarasota community is drastically underinvested in rapid rehousing for single adults,” a gap that was directly addressed by the collaboration of donors and funders that acted to bring SVdP CARES's rapid rehousing expertise to our community.
“Highest acuity of need”
The Suncoast Rapid Rehousing team now in place includes housing specialists, who work with local landlords to identify available and appropriate housing for homeless individuals, and case managers, who work directly with newly housed individuals to ensure that they have the necessary wraparound services to progress toward permanent housing.
As part of a comprehensive system for addressing homelessness, the rapid rehousing program targets those homeless individuals with the greatest needs. The very first clients connected to housing through the program had been homeless for more than five years, on average. Ed DeMarco, CEO of the Suncoast Partnership to end homelessness, recently told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that the Sarasota community is “focusing our rapid rehousing dollars and our permanent supportive housing funds on those who are at the highest acuity of need."
The program’s four case managers are expected to have full caseloads of 15 or more clients soon.