SARASOTA, FL – A new shelter that could alleviate a waiting list among the more than 2,000 teens who are homeless in the 12th Judicial Circuit has reached a significant funding milestone but is still looking for additional support from the community to address this critical need.
Safe Children Coalition, which provides community-based care and child welfare services in Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties, is leading the effort to build the new youth shelter, and has just met a challenge match by Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. Barancik Foundation awarded the campaign its first $1 million leadership gift, which included a $500,000 match. SCC has leveraged the challenge portion of the gift to raise an additional $500,000, resulting in $1.5 million that will help build a new facility in north Sarasota for homeless or unaccompanied teens. Additional gifts have also been received.
In addition to support from Barancik Foundation, the project has been acknowledged through advisory participation from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, and others. In addition to its board of directors, community leaders including Carol Butera, the retired CEO of William G. and Marie Selby Foundation; Sharon Kenworthy, President, Personalized Estate Liquidation Benefitting Youth, LLC; Jose Joia, Wealth Strategic Advisors; and Jennifer Abbott, Manatee Community Foundation, are assisting the organization with the campaign.
“We are so grateful to Barancik Foundation for this tremendous gift, and everyone who has supported the critical need for the only youth shelter in our community,” said SCC President and CEO Brena Slater. “Without the Youth Shelter, young people would be much more likely to end up in unsafe environments – as victims of human trafficking or out on the streets – and/or in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. We feel incredibly fortunate to have support from our area foundations as well as the individuals who are contributing their time and expertise to help guide our efforts.”
The SCC Youth Shelter provides a safe space for homeless or unaccompanied teens who are without safe shelter because of a mental health crisis (four out of five youths in the shelter arrive there after being released from a Baker Act stay at a local hospital facility) and/or a parent’s inability to cope with a youth who is out of control.
Teenager Jalen (not his real name) is one such youth. He had fallen in with the wrong crowd, was failing school, and ran away from home at the age of 13 because “things were really bad.” He found himself in the middle of a criminal situation but, instead of sending Jalen to jail, the judge assigned him to the Youth Shelter. Now, he’s getting good grades – straight As – and looking forward to graduating from high school.
“I feel like I have more hope now; the Youth Shelter helped me make the most of my second chance and got me going in a different direction,” Jalen said. “I believe the shelter saved my life.”
The previous Youth Shelter was more than 60 years old and limited the number of teens the program could serve. SCC leaders note that, for the past few years, the SCC Youth Shelter has been first or second in facility utilization out of the 16 shelters in the Florida network. With the one-two punch of the pandemic and then Hurricane Ian – as well as an ever-worsening youth mental health crisis – the need has only increased.
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 temporary emergency housing for youths ages 10-17, and is being designed to reduce the list of youths waiting for safe shelter.
The ultimate goal of the Youth Shelter program is to reunite youths with their families as appropriate, or to help parents find resources for more appropriate care, thereby keeping teens out of foster care. The new Youth Shelter will provide nearly 3,000 safe shelter bed-nights a year and serve up to 200 youths 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 email@example.com or call 941-371-4799, ext. 1127.
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.