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Sarasota homelessness costs business owners

MELISSA REID
Associate Publisher
mreid@lbknews.com

Several commercial property owners/business owners downtown have been writing to the City of Sarasota Commission in an effort to find a resolution to the homeless situation that they say is affecting their businesses.

Joe McElmeel, Chairman and CEO of Brooke Chase Associates, has his business and his building located behind Second Street downtown.

“My employees can’t cross the street to get to the business. It’s affected our rental properties and our business,” said McElmeel. “We’ve had instances where we rent a unit and they come back later, or at night, and they don’t want to deal with it (homeless problem).”

McElmeel elaborates that the homeless individuals around his building leave garbage behind, urinate and defecate, as well as harass him and his staff and tenants. In fact, he and his neighbors along Second Street have had several meetings to discuss what they could do as a solution, and Sarasota Vice Mayor Liz Alpert has attended the meetings as well.

“To date the subject is not going before the city commission. But I have been to these local meetings with my constituents,” said Alpert.

Alpert says the city is limited to what they can do to solve the homeless problem, but that the city does have a Homeless Outreach Team that consists of some city staff, police officers and a social worker to help educate the homeless on what services are available. The difficulty is some homeless do not want the services.

“A lot of the chronically homeless do not want the services. There are 30 extra beds at the Salvation Army, but some do not want to go there. And there are legalities that prevent us from doing certain things,” said Alpert.

Alpert assures that the Sarasota Police are doing everything they can to educate and take the homeless to the services they need, and that the Public Works Department is making sure garbage cans along the street are being emptied so they are not overflowing and the homeless can throw their garbage away.

McElmeel agrees with Alpert that the police are helpful and doing everything they can, but says there should be more ordinances in the City to restrict certain behaviors so the police can enforce better.

“In Houston there’s an ordinance where if an organization wants to host a ‘Feed the Hungry’ event, they need a permit from the city if more than five people are expected to turn out,” said McElmeel.

McElmeel makes it clear that he does sympathize with the homeless plight and those churches and agencies that want to offer food and other services to the homeless, and wants to help find positive solutions to the problem.

“I do not have a problem with the organizations if they want to feed people. But what I would say is to require those organizations to stay and clean up after them. Homeless leave a mess behind, they leave garbage everywhere and use the restroom. The organizations should clean up after them and take responsibility,” said McElmeel.

In his letter to city commissioners, McElmeel points out several other cities and their solutions to some of the homeless problem.

“Alana Brenner, an Orlando city clerk who serves as the mayor’s point person on the homeless problem, says the city has set up ‘an alternative location near downtown,’ where ‘feedings can take place any day, any hour,’” wrote McElmeel. McElmeel writes certain cities prohibit sitting or sleeping in public spaces.

Another member of the Second Street business owners, Jeff Sedacca, wrote to the city commission as well expressing his concern about the homeless.

Sedacca wrote, “My employees are afraid to leave our place of business after dark. There are frequently intoxicated homeless people camped out in our parking lot and they are threatening and abusive. It is not uncommon for us to come to work to find that someone defecated at our back door. We are all sympathetic to the plight of the homeless, and appreciate the efforts made by aid organizations. But those organizations choose the venues at which to do their good works. They should be responsible for the consequences of their choices.”

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1 Response for “Sarasota homelessness costs business owners”

  1. ghostrider says:

    It would be best to assess businesses $10/month, and, with the money, construct public restrooms for the homeless. It’s a small price to pay. Calling the police is NOT a solution.

    There are pictures of Mr.Joe McElmeel on Google attending galas. The price of his suit would pay for five years’ worth.

    The number of homeless and the ocean have much in common. Neither one is going away and both are rising.

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