Recently, Gulf Coast Community Foundation had the privilege of participating in a Zoom call with Community Assisted and Supported Living (CASL) to discuss the impact of a grant they received from Gulf Coast. The $156,000 grant brought a collaborative vision to reality supporting a first-of-its-kind program in Sarasota County. The Transitions program provides housing and supports to individuals being released from correctional facilities. Joining Gulf Coast on the call were several individuals currently enrolled in the program.
Formerly incarcerated individuals are 10 times more likely to fall into homelessness than the general public. Individuals being released from correctional facilities have numerous challenges to overcome with few resources and supports, often leading to a repetitive cycle of arrests and more.
The first individual on the Zoom call will be referred to by the first letter of her first name, J. J explained the gratitude she felt being a part of this project and the ways in which it has changed the trajectory of her life. As the only female currently in the program, J was given a room at CASL with house rules and paperwork. She shared that she is interviewing for jobs and wants to get back into the medical field. Her ultimate goal is to stay at CASL for three months, then work with Centerstone Sarasota on housing for her family.
Without the structure and guidance from this opportunity, J shared that she’s not sure she could have stayed on the good path she is on. She felt that any judgment of having been incarcerated was thrown out the window when she came to CASL. She was welcomed with open arms, resources, and people who were ready and willing to assist her. As tears started to fall from her eyes, one could feel the resounding impact of this program on J’s life.
Next, T spoke on the call, saying he knew this would be a really good program to get him back on his feet. T needed a place to live and work as he reintegrated into society. He explained how “phenomenal” it was to see all three organizations working together. T was so grateful for access to food, a place to live, and other important resources he needed on a daily basis. He was positive and hopeful in all that he shared.
On the Zoom call, an employee at CASL said that everyone is so thankful to be living there and to have a bed to sleep in. Individuals in the program have all found a job right away and are focusing on what they need to do to move forward positively with their lives.
The support for the Transitions project is palpable, and the collaboration between Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO), and CASL is critical. The symbiotic relationship with the Sheriff’s Office and re-entry navigators was instrumental in fostering these hopeful stories. One step further that is critical for this to continue is sustainable funding. Together, we can help individuals overcome post-release barriers through collaboration and diligence.