In 2006, USA Today identified Sarasota, FL as the meanest city in America for how it deals with people who are homeless. Sarasota officials may have again earned top honors with a decision in May 2011.
Since 2006 homelessness has doubled in Sarasota, thanks to the economy, the real estate bust and more accurate counting. The problem is not going away as the housing foreclosure pipeline is still bursting at the seam. People without permanent housing, as well as other residents, are now denied a bench to sit on in Sarasota's newest public park.
The newly revamped Selby Five Points Park downtown had become a congregating place for people who rely on shelters for sleeping but have no place to call home during the day. Their presence made some people uncomfortable. At the insistence of some residents, the city removed all of the park benches in April and May, saying they will consider reinstalling them three months after a proposed smoking ban is enacted.
Earlier this year The Economist magazine wrote about homeless in Sarasota. One of the wealthiest cities in Florida, Sarasota continues to pull chairs out from under men and women who are homeless. A growing number of concerned citizens are making themselves heard. Please add your voice, whether you live in Sarasota, visit/vacation in Florida, or just want to ask how such a warm place can breed cold hearts.
The above photo taken May 22, 2011 depicts that the arts are very visible and celebrated in Sarasota, that people without a home of their own are right in front of us living in the shadows, and the symbol of the America that we want restored is almost lost in the background.