The mission: to transform our region through bold and proactive philanthropy. The vision: thriving communities with opportunities for all.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation targets regional issues with innovative approaches and scalable solutions. As the 2021 Regional Scan showed, the lack of affordable housing is a long-standing threat in this region. Gulf Coast is invested in the solution.

A super-crisis

As a community, we have increased services and created paths to housing for those suffering from homelessness over the past several years. Nonprofits, governments, businesses, and philanthropies have infused significant dollars and labor hours into building an effective crisis response system. Today, that carefully designed and constructed system is deeply under water.

Gulf Coast’s senior community investment officer, Jennifer Johnston, works to propose solutions to this super-crisis every day. “With evictions increasing and housing costs skyrocketing, we are becoming a tale of two cities,” she says. “Some residents are prospering, while a growing underclass, the service workforce, is losing ground daily.”

One critical observation she makes is that the only choice for many people who are losing their current rental unit is to go where they can find affordable housing and a livable wage—far from Sarasota.

Working together

Today, there is an opportunity to come together and be a part of the solution. On behalf of children sleeping in cars and families who don’t have enough money to feed themselves, the priority must be to collaborate to be a part of the solution.

Those who bear the greatest burdens usually have the least influence—children with no voice, persons with no housing, those with limited resources. The pandemic has pushed people onto the streets who have never asked for services before. This is an opportunity for us to learn the lessons of COVID-19. Our choices impact others. We are all connected. One of the greatest lessons of the pandemic is that our quality of life is dependent on other people, and we cannot leave a large segment of our community behind.

Taking action

This week, Gulf Coast Community Foundation provided three Initiative Grants to Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness:

  1. With the City of Sarasota, Suncoast Partnership, and the judiciary, we are launching a full-time Community Care Court Case Manager to assist those who have violated the law due to being homeless, to help them overcome homelessness. The goal is to prevent people from being jailed for living on the street, then being released back to the street, over and over.
  2. Gulf Coast continues to fund the first Housing Locator at Suncoast Partnership to assist agencies and individuals with finding affordable housing and building strong relationships with landlords.
  3. Gulf Coast is providing lunch for the weary case managers working in homeless services agencies for their first in-person case conferencing meetings since the pandemic.

Together, we can all become a part of the solution, but not without catalytic, fervent work that needs to take place now and in the months and years to come. With each of us advocating on behalf of those in need, we can create a community with quality of life for all.

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