A Message from the Chairman – April 2016

Ron Soto, SDMA's Chairman

Ron Soto, SDMA’s Chairman

As vagrancy on our streets continues to be one of downtown’s most critical and controversial issues, a new strategy to discourage visitors, residents and merchants from giving money on the streets is now in place.

It’s called “Your Kindness Can Kill,” and the new campaign will redirect donations to local agencies that are not only in place in Sarasota, but ready and willing to provide the food, clothing and shelter needed to keep people off of our streets.

Let me reiterate: The money we are giving to people on our streets is not feeding the hungry, but feeding their addictions.

The statistics first cited by Robert G. Marbut Jr., Ph.D., in his study of the homeless and vagrant populations in Sarasota County three years ago still hold true: 93 percent of all the money that is given to people on the streets is not used to pay for food, clothing or shelter. The sad truth is that these “donations” are, instead, used to pay for drugs, alcohol and prostitution.

Were you aware that the convenience stores in downtown Sarasota have some of the highest beer sales in the state of Florida? What does that say about where money is being spent?

The new “Your Kindness Can Kill” campaign will include the printing of 4 x 6-inch cards, pictured above left, that warn residents and visitors of the potentially fatal dangers of giving money on the streets. On the back of the cards, the names, addresses and contact information for local agencies in Sarasota that are willing to help will be printed so that ALL donations can be redirected.

Keep in mind—money handed out on the street is not tax deductible; donations made directly to our local agencies, however, are legitimate tax deductions.

Our strategy is to recruit volunteers to stand near the “hot spots” in downtown where the vagrants post their signs. Volunteers will hand out these cards to residents and visitors to encourage them to make their donations directly to local agencies.

It is important to, once again, differentiate between Sarasota’s homeless population and the vagrants who are sitting on our street corners begging for money. It is the “vagrants” or “vagabonds” that are disrupting business and annoying—even frightening—downtown shoppers, diners and theater-goers.

The definition of donation is “giving to a worthy cause or charity,” and giving money on the streets is neither; it is nothing more than a handout.

If you, as downtown merchants, would like to join in the effort to end vagrancy on our streets once and for all, please consider volunteering for an hour or two to hand out our new cards.

We are counting on your help to make a difference.

After all, it takes a village…

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