SARASOTA, FL – Research continues to show that moving is one of the most stressful life events people will experience. For team members at child welfare organization Safe Children Coalition, they are not only faced with moving the Youth Shelter while ensuring the safety of the youths in their charge but also needing to do it twice.
The Safe Children Coalition (SCC) Youth Shelter provides a safe space for homeless or unaccompanied teens who are without safe shelter due to extreme parental conflict, abuse or neglect, or a parent’s inability to cope as well as reasons including a mental health crisis, substance/alcohol abuse or ordered by the court.
The current Youth Shelter sits on property that was sold after SCC separated from the Sarasota YMCA three years ago. SCC received a three-year grace period to occupy the property, which would have been enough time to run its capital campaign and build its new shelter. But the pandemic pushed everything back and, with the grace period up, SCC had to figure out a new plan quickly or the homeless shelter would, itself, become homeless.
With real estate values going through the roof, SCC began looking for its temporary home about a year ago, finally closing on a former assisted living facility in November 2022. Since then, the organization has been making upgrades to ensure the safety of its young residents and staff. The team has been packing in stages, hoping to be fully moved out by mid-March. It is crucial that the transition be seamless for the current residents of the shelter, particularly those who truly have no home to return to.
Youth Shelter leaders stress the incredible need in our area for the facility.
“For the past few years, we have been first or second in facility utilization out of the 30 shelters in the Florida network,” said Charles Harris, Director of Residential Programs. “Especially with the pandemic and then Hurricane Ian, the need for our shelter has been very high.”
Harris noted that there is a constant waiting list for the facility, which has just 20 beds and is further limited by safety-related requirements. The top reasons youths end up in the shelter include mental health crises, substance abuse, homelessness, and incidents involving the Department of Juvenile Justice.
The temporary shelter will have limited capacity and its layout – which includes more open spaces, hallways, and bathrooms in bedrooms – will cause challenges for the shelter staff.
“We’ll have to learn new ways of running the facility in order to keep kids safe,” said Jill Steiner, SCC’s VP of Out of Home Care. “We’ll need to navigate the situation as it unfolds in order to keep this critical service to our community available and the youths who rely on us secure.”
The new Youth Shelter will be located on Sawyer Road in north Sarasota, sitting on two acres of land. The nearly 9,000-square-foot building will provide safe emergency, temporary housing for youth ages 10-17, and is designed to reduce the list of youth waiting for safe shelter, and house the maximum number of youths allowed by its contract consistently throughout the year. It will provide nearly 3,000 safe shelter bed-nights a year and serve up to 200 youth annually for many years to come.
For more about Safe Children Coalition or to learn how you can support the effort to build the new Youth Shelter, contact Jacqueline House at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 941-225-6166.
About Safe Children Coalition, Inc.
Safe Children Coalition, Inc. (SCC) serves as the lead agency for community-based care for Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties. SCC is a collaboration between local community agencies who provide services to children and families in need. SCC is committed to protecting children, strengthening families, and building community. The core functions provided by SCC include child welfare case management, foster care, adoption, independent living, prevention, diversion, quality management, and support services. Visit sccfl.org or call 941-371-4799.