According to the 2016 Point-in-Time Census — an annual census of the homeless population required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — 497 homeless people were counted in Manatee County and 971 in Sarasota County. This represents an increase of nearly 23 percent from 2015.
Resurrection House, a faith-based day resource center for the homeless of Sarasota County, was created to help transition these at-risk individuals to a path of self-sufficiency. In its 26th year, Resurrection House has a small number of paid staff and does not accept funding from the city, county, state, or federal government. Founded by six local churches, the organization instead operates solely off donations and depends on its network of more than 180 volunteers to help serve its ever-increasing number of “clients.”
Open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., Resurrection House offers services that other organizations serving the homeless may not, including: locker storage, medical help, legal advice, clothing, clothes washing, transportation options, and counseling. They also offer shower and bathroom facilities, barber services, meals, and more. After completing an intake form, each new client immediately meets with a case manager to help kick-start the transition process.
At Plymouth Harbor, efforts to support Resurrection House come in many forms. Resident Bill Vernon has been a volunteer for nearly two years, ever since a friend at All Angels Episcopal Church suggested he get involved. Bill spends his Fridays from 8:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m. manning the shower facilities, where he keeps a list of which client is up next and rations supplies. “We only have four showers, but we could use 40,” Bill says. “All in all, Resurrection House helps people who are down on their luck — and there are loads of success stories.”
Resident Buzz VanArsdale has also volunteered at Resurrection House for several years. After noticing a volunteer advertisement in the newspaper, he decided to see what he could do to help. With a passion for bicycling, he was the perfect fit for the bicycle shop — where volunteers help refurbish used bicycles that are given to clients who land a full-time job. When asked why he enjoys his time there, Buzz says, “It’s important. This place meets a large need for a very big population in our community.”
Resident Mike Kolker got involved with Resurrection House after a suggestion by Bill Vernon. He was there for over a year, trading off Friday volunteer days with Bill before he stopped due to physical challenges. However, he does plan to look into a more administrative position. “The organization is doing a very fine job, and it is obviously needed,” he says. “I would encourage others to consider the possibility of volunteering there.”
In December 2015, Plymouth Harbor employees also launched “Holiday Helpers” through the OnBoard Employee Wellness Program, which collected donations for Resurrection House. A total of 10 boxes of clothing, blankets, toiletries, and over $300 in cash and gift cards was gathered. It was so successful that employees have begun a permanent collection bin, where donations can be made on a year-round basis.
To learn more about Resurrection House, you can visit http://www.resurrectionhousesarasota.org/.