Last year, I dedicated myself to become both homeless and moneyless due to the unsustainability of our current monetary economy and the ever-increasing hostility shown toward the homeless citizens in the place of my birth. Since then, Sarasota’s homeless population has been tormented by the Sarasota Police Department, and although a great number of the county’s citizens have collaborated on developing a ten year plan to end homelessness through the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, it appears as if the SPD and the City Commission are spending their energies and assumed powers to only make things harder for this most fragile contingent of our community.
In spite of the fact that Sarasota offers no dedicated 24 hour shelter for those who cannot afford a place to live, or are unable to manage the seemingly simple tasks of participating in our rather complex society due to mental illnesses, drug addictions, or other disabilities, these people are continually hounded and harassed by the Sarasota Police Department. If they spend time in public places, they are asked to leave or arrested. If they find a hidden place to set up a camp as to not be tormented by these gun-wielding fiends, they are rooted out and treated as less than human.
Recently, one of them was arrested for simply charging his cell phone in order to keep in touch with loved ones, or, God forbid, have to call 911 in order to ask for help from those that predominantly act as their nemeses. Although the City of Sarasota recently installed a number of electric car charging stations which may be used freely by anyone who can afford an electric car in addition to an actual home, it seems to be too much of a strain in the city’s budget to help the downtrodden empower their communicative abilities. This type of blatant preferential treatment for those with money and abhorrent injustice for those without is merely one example of why Sarasota received the 2006 title of “meanest city” to homeless people, a title that both the Sarasota Police Department and the City Commission seem to wear as some sort of masochistic badge of honor.
As a Sarasota native, it pains me to be so ashamed of and disgraced by those who have sworn to protect and serve the citizens of this community. Whether they be homeless, snow birds, tourists, or tax-paying residents, every human being that sets foot on this soil needs to be treated with dignity and respect. Especially for those who face the demoralizing dilemma of not being able to afford a decent living in these disastrous economic times, we must realize that they are still a part of our community, and the more we rub their noses into their poverty, the more we cultivate the poverty of our souls.
We must do better, Sarasota.