Sheriff Knight Announces Homeless Outreach Team

NEWS RELEASE 18-168 - OCTOBER 18, 2018 

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight during a press event today announced the adoption of the agency’s first full-time Homeless Outreach Team (H.O.T.).
H.O.T. unofficially launched in June 2018 and consists of a sworn deputy and two civilian case workers. The team works Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., however, services are available to the public 24/7. Through outreach, referrals and agency-generated reports, the team works to establish relationships of trust with homeless individuals in order to educate, encourage and guide them to connect with social services and agencies throughout Sarasota County. Team members focus on housing, providing veteran assistance, and identifying medical services for mental health and substance abuse.
Noteworthy is the team’s response in August 2018 to an Englewood mother and her four children who were living in a local shelter and in need of clothing for the upcoming school year. H.O.T. worked with local partners including the Salvation Army of Venice to secure school supplies, clothing and essentials for the family. Another unique response is when the team connected with a 66-year-old woman living at a SCAT bus stop in Sarasota for several months. Her legs had oozing sores and were so swollen with Edema that she was unable to walk. The woman defecated and urinated on herself due to her limited mobility and her thought process was illogical, making communication very difficult. H.O.T. worked with the woman and convinced her to go to the hospital where she was admitted to ICU and later discharged to a nursing facility that addresses her medical and mental health needs on a daily basis. Because of services provided by H.O.T., the woman was also reconnected with her two adult sons, who she separated from decades ago when they were placed into the foster system.  
Since June 1, 2018, H.O.T. has made contact with 300 homeless citizens, placed 80 citizens in beds and assisted 30 veterans. Based on results of Sarasota County’s annual Citizen Opinion Survey, homelessness has dropped over the past three years in terms of the “Most Important Issue in Sarasota County”, however, as of June 2018, it remains one of the top 10 highest priorities for our community.
“While deputies have been connecting homeless citizens to resources for years, we are very pleased to formalize this program and dedicate an entire team to the mission,” said Sheriff Tom Knight. “H.O.T. offers a myriad of services which includes much more than just housing and medical care. When we’re able to reconnect a 42-year-old homeless man with his mother in Minnesota, secure transportation to get him back home, and help him stabilize his life, we know we’re doing the right thing.”
During Thursday’s press event, Sheriff Knight recognized several community partners who helped secure H.O.T. as well as those who continue to provide funding and housing solutions for the homeless community in partnership with the sheriff’s office. These partners include Sarasota County Government, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Salvation Army Sarasota, and many others.