Sarasota County deputies partner with United Way to help increased number of residents facing eviction

Sarasota County deputies are working to help those facing eviction, and it comes as they've seen a spike in eviction notices and violence from those they're serving – in part, out of frustration. 

In 2021, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office recorded 671 evictions as well as 717 in 2022. Currently, more than 850 evictions are projected this year. 

"They have jobs, but due to current events with COVID, inflation, interest rates, population, rate increases. They have nowhere to go," said Captain John Walsh with SCSO. 

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He said some of the residents, including families and elderly, may be behind just one or two payments. 

"They’re already angry and sad and mad and don’t know what to do," Walsh said. 

In some cases, civil deputies are encountering people threatening suicide and violence. 

On April 1, 2022, a final eviction notice led to a deputy-involved shooting. A 58-year-old man was shot and killed after he armed himself with a knife and threatened deputies. 

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"Mostly what we are experiencing are people who don’t want to accept what is happening, and they’re in a bad way, and we understand that," said Walsh. 

He hopes a community partnership will change that. 

"Deputies want to be able to say, ‘yes it is, but let me help you,’ and the United Way is the bridge to that help," Walsh said. 

When evictions begin, deputies place a door hanger or offer a direct phone number to The United Way of South Sarasota County. Case managers are then waiting on the calls. 

"It’s that rapid response that we want to have, especially when documents have been served. Time is of the essence," said Barbara Cruz, the president and CEO of United Way South Sarasota County. 

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If a person is behind on rent, a payment or two it can sometimes be worked out. 

"We can negotiate with the landlord and the tenant, the legal aid will negotiate a settlement," said Cruz. 

If not, United Way begins a plan to help move the person to a temporary housing solution, while working on a permanent plan. 

"This is providing hope and resources," said Cruz. 

The partnership started a few weeks ago, and Cruz said 20 people have already been helped in various ways. 

"What we are seeing is great success," said Walsh. 

For more information, contact the United Way South Sarasota County at (941) 484-4811.