The Come-As-You-Are Shelter
Over the past two years, no one single issue relating directly to the homeless in Sarasota will have more effect on them than the come-as-you-are (CAYA) shelter. The following is an attempt to define and understand the history and current discussion regarding the CAYA shelter.
My description of the shelter was formed by what I witnessed in touring Safe Harbor, a CAYA Shelter in St. Petersburg.
The shelter is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Everyone enters into a fenced-in open area through a metal detector. Plastic tubs for storing belongings are available to all before entering. The individuals can be impaired by alcohol/drugs, but if not disruptive are allowed to stay.
The open area is striped, resembling a parking lot, but the stripes separate where mats are placed on the ground for sleeping. Portable restrooms and water for hydration are available. The area is on a camera remote monitored by law enforcement.
Those who agree to be case managed and work a program created for them may sleep inside. During the day, they can come and go, but need to be back in time for the evening meal.
The idea for a CAYA shelter was brought to the forefront by Dr. Robert Marbut in the summer of 2013. After failing to interest Bradenton and Manatee County in his shelter idea, elements of the Sarasota populace and government asked him for a proposal to help increase services for the homeless.
Following a “look and learn” tour of the city and county, Dr. Marbut proposed a stock reply to the homeless problem. “Sarasota needs to build/find space for a CAYA”, he noted.
His original report was presented and accepted by the City and County Commissioners on November 25, 2013. After failing to agree upon a suitable location, the City voted to cease the CAYA process in July 2014, and the County followed suit in a vote in August 2014.
The County decided to re-engage the discussion earlier this year. A joint meeting between the County and City Commissioners to discuss the CAYA is currently scheduled for the first week in November.
During the duration, Dr. Marbut was paid over $40,000 for his initial assessment and over $80,000 for trying to implement his proposal. The cost was shared equally between the City and County governments.