MANATEE -- The Florida Department of Children and Families announced $1.2 million in grants to agencies around the state to help families avoid becoming homeless, including $275,000 to nonprofits in Manatee and Sarasota.
Receiving $100,000 each are Community Coalition on Homelessness in Manatee County, and Jewish Family and Childrens Services of Sarasota-Manatee. Receiving a grant of $75,000 is Salvation Army Sarasota.
While the help is welcome, it will only go so far in a community with high unemployment and homelessness.
An estimated 1,500 to 2,500 Manatee students are homeless. Its also estimated that 500 people sleep outdoors without any kind of shelter nightly, the Herald has reported.
The number of people needing help is unprecedented, and there is no money to help many of them, said Adell Erozer, executive director of Community Coalition on Homelessness.
I have five families with babies right now that we cannot help. Each of them is facing eviction in the next 10 days, Erozer said. Its hard when they walk in the door with two kids and they are living in the car and are desperate. The $100,000 wont take long to spend down.
The money will provide short-term financial assistance to 130 families to prevent eviction or termination of utility service, Erozer said.
Recipients must show that the one-time boost offered by a grant will enable them to stay in their housing. The coalition wont award a grant to anyone if the money staves off eviction for only a month or two.
We dont just hand the money out, Erozer said.
The emergency shelter grants were made through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and come with strings attached on how the money can be spent.
There is an enormous unprecedented need right now and there is no money. Thats why its important to give to the Season of Sharing campaign, Erozer said. It gives us a pot of money that we can use with no restrictions.
Erozer is hoping for a ripple effect of good to come from the grants announced Wednesday.
When you help one family, there are positive repercussions to others, she said. People come here desperate but they are humble.
That in turn helps keep those trying to help the homeless focused on their work, she said.
The $75,000 awarded to the Salvation Army Sarasota is earmarked to help 65 households retain their housing.
Most of that will go toward rental assistance payments to help the most people, said Glenda Leonard, development director of Salvation Army Sarasota.
We appreciate the support the community gives us. We are here to help those in need, Leonard said.
Jewish Family and Childrens Services of Sarasota-Manatee will use its $100,000 grant to help 75 households with short-term rent and utility payments, said Philip Gorelick, vice president of programs.
Recipient agencies of the emergency shelter grants are required to provide a dollar-for-dollar match, Gorelick said.
We have very generous donors who help support this program and fill the needs of this community, he said.
For those who wish to make a donation:
Season of Sharing: donate at https://www.cfsarasota.org/ or mail donations to Community Foundation of Sarasota County, P.O. Box 49587, Sarasota, FL 34230-6587
Community Coalition on Homelessness: Adell Erozer at 941-747-1509.
Jewish Family and Childrens Services of Sarasota-Manatee: http://www.jfcs-cares.org/
Salvation Army Manatee: https://donate.salvationarmyusa.org/
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021.