City Council to consider hiring Dr. Robert Marbut for homelessness consulting services

Regular City Council meetings are typically held on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, beginning at 5:30 pm in City Council Chambers on the first floor of City Hall, 222 West Main Street, Pensacola, Florida.

April 24, 2014, the Pensacola City Council will vote whether:

  • “That the City Council approve engaging Dr. Robert Marbut of Marbut Consulting to assist in evaluating homeless services in regard to the possible application of ordinances” (meeting agenda item 3).


Dr. Marbut’s approach to addressing homelessness

More on Dr. Marbut’s Seven Guiding Principles of Transformation here

“The mission should no longer be to “serve” the homeless community…”

“Panhandling Enables the Homeless and Must Be Stopped…Homeless individuals who are panhandling should be ‘engaged’ into the ‘transformational process.’”

“Panhandling is one of the craziest things. If you allow panhandling as a culture of your community, and if…I told you that $0.93 of every dollar is gonna go to alcohol, drugs or women, would you give that person a dollar? And that’s what you’re doing.”

“Street feeding and other street service efforts (e.g. distribution of clothing, backpacks, blankets, tents, etc)…are very enabling and do not engage homeless individuals into service programming. Street feeding and services in parks, at beaches, at street corners and under bridges…actually exacerbates homelessness and increases the number of homeless individuals on the street. There is an excessive amount of street feeding efforts.”

“Free food handouts and cash from panhandling…actually perpetuates and increases homelessness through enablement.”

“Providing camping supplies and/or feeding in the parks, at street corners, at beaches and behind restaurants exacerbates and promotes homelessness, thus increasing the number of homeless individuals…Wholesale food suppliers, caterers, grocery stores, restaurants and hotels need to be encouraged to assist strategic initiatives rather than efforts that enable homelessness… A media and public awareness campaign needs to be developed to encourage the community to move from a culture of enablement to a culture of engagement.”

“Homeless individuals who want help should be provided engaging help. Individuals who turn down help should not be enabled.”

“’Hanging-out’ should be replaced by ‘program participation.’ Every effort possible must be made to engage individuals into programming.”

Dr. Marbut believes ordinances should “be used as tools to ‘engage’ homeless individuals into programs such as Sarasota Safe Harbor… In order to streamline and clarify use of ordinances, it is strongly recommended that the County adopt the ordinances and than have all the municipalities adopt the County’s ordinances. This will allow LEAs [Law Enforcement Agencies], LEOs [Law Enforcement Officers], homeless individuals and the general public to all understand the same set of rules throughout the County and thus help to reduce geographic “shopping.”

“…Homeless outreach teams” (HOTs) should then be activated… The best HOTs pair a social service worker with a police officer. HOTs should be the initial point of contact with both chronic homeless and inebriates living on the streets, in parks and in encampments.”

“Homeless outreach teams [a police officer and social worker team] will be…the primary tactical engagement tool for street level ‘engagement’ of individuals into 24/7 service programs.”

“Many families actively try to avoid the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and police for fear of having their children taken from them by the State”

“It is recommended that the Sheriff become the operational lead of Sarasota Safe Harbor.”

“The Sarasota Sheriff’s Office should be asked to be the lead coordinating agency. This would become the main intake portal for adult homeless men and women. All adult services county-wide should “spoke off” of this main hub.”

“The County and cities should formally ask the Sheriff to take-on the lead agency role at Sarasota Safe Harbor.”

“A physical fencing barrier needs to line Sarasota Safe Harbor.”

Dr. Marbut addressed an audience at New College of Florida (video):

“Inside the program, those 7 steps still apply. For example, at Safe Harbor, we have 4 steps. We have basic entry, which is level 1, we assume a certain level of functionality-you get a mat and it’s indoors. Then when you make it to level 2, you get a better mat in a less crowded area, you get more storage, and we also have more responsibilities for you, moving up the line. When you go from 2 to 3, you get a dedicated bunk bed that you don’t have to pick up every day-the bunk is staying there; you have a lot more storage, you’ve got a very different environment, a quiet environment, way better sleeping at night and such, so each of those has steps. At any one of those steps, if you violate a case manager or a rule…then you go to the ‘penalty box’…The only way to get out of the ‘penalty box’ is for the case manager to clear you, and the ‘penalty box’ is an outdoor mat…whether it’s raining in the summer time like now, or very cold in the winter, it’s amazing how many people want to get out of the ‘penalty box’ and get indoors. And that becomes a consequence…”

Pinellas Safe Harbor Facility: “Pinellas Safe Harbor (“The Harbor”) is a cost-effective shelter and service headquarters for the criminal justice system involved homeless in Pinellas County, as well as a portal of reentry for inmates reentering our community from the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Pinellas County Jail (PCJ).

The primary purpose of Pinellas Safe Harbor is jail diversion—that is to keep the homeless out of the criminal justice system…the population of ordinance violators, and non-violent offenders would be reduced in the Jail, at a significant savings to taxpayers. Pinellas Safe Harbor is operated by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office”

“Among the participating agencies…Public Defender’s Office Homeless Outreach Diversion Program – Diversion services to have local ordinance violations dismissed…”

“Internal security is provided by G4S Services (contractor). Facility perimeter security is maintained by existing Pinellas County Jail perimeter patrols, which are backed up by deputy sheriffs who routinely patrol the surrounding community.”

Video tour of Pinellas Safe Harbor


Homeless Services Gaps Analysis of Sarasota County Presentation of Findings and Action Plan Recommendations to the County of Sarasota and the Cities within Sarasota County by Robert G. Marbut Jr., Ph.D. Final Written Report November 26, 2013. Link to draft report and final report

“Preventing Homelessness: A Conversation with Dr. Richard Marbut.” Address to New College of Florida. Published August 6, 2013. (video)

Pinellas Safe Harbor

Pinellas Safe Harbor