Sarasota tries new approach to helping the homeless - FOX 13 News

Sarasota tries new approach to helping the homeless

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Robert Kay only wants the best for his business Vom Fass and his downtown Sarasota customers.

"I am opposed to anything that makes anyone uncomfortable downtown," Kay said.

Saturday night, when he saw a Robert Robinson, homeless man making inappropriate gestures outside his shop he asked the man to leave.

Robinson refused, and police said he punched Kay.

"I was trying to avoid getting hurt and getting him away from me, more than anything," Kay said.

The men fought and smashed through Kay's store front window during the scuffle.

Robinson went to jail. He has been booked 12 other times.

Now, Kay wants the city's help.

"The problem that we are having in downtown Sarasota is with the chronic vagrancy, panhandling and the people that don't want any kind of help," Kay said.

Sarasota police hope a homeless outreach team will be able to help the homeless get off the streets while helping them out.

"What we are doing, we are allowing our social services coordinator to go out and make contact with the homeless, and the law enforcement takes the back seat to the contact," said Captain Pat Robinson.

A sergeant and patrol officer will accompany a social service coordinator as they offer help to the homeless.

"We're giving the individuals another option. Before we had this, it was incumbent of the individual to take the illness on themselves, to seek out for themselves. Now, we are acting as a bridge," Captain Robinson said.

For those on the street, the program seems too good to be true.

"Everyday, survival is just stress. You have more stress out here living on the street than living with bills and having money," said Michelle, who did not want to use her last name.

She said she may give it a chance if it does others good.

"I'm just going to sit back and watch the show for a little bit and observe and see what goes on," Michelle said.

Police hope those like Michelle will be willing to give them a chance.

The city and county will meet on June 23 to discuss the site of a future homeless shelter. The city has also made plans to start a homeless advisory board.

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