Streets of Paradise (SoP) is currently seeking donations. For those unfamiliar with the organization, Streets of Paradise is a registered 501(c)(3) which primarily serves Sarasota and Manatee Counties.
SoP came about quite organically in January of 2018. A couple of guys with a bag of sandwiches, determined to connect with the ever-growing homeless faction struggling among us, set out to learn the stories of “the least of these.” A mission to bring awareness of homelessness within our community to the general population evolved into an outreach initiative comprised of hundreds of dedicated volunteers. It has become our practice to engender trust within the homeless community by meeting them where they live and supplying basic necessities to struggling recipients. Our regular events have become known for the friendly faces of caring people who hit the streets of Sarasota with delicious and nutritious home-made food, personal hygiene items, blankets, jackets, and so much more. Streets of Paradise volunteers always reach out with ears that listen and genuine hearts that feel; the people whom we serve absolutely know this to be true.
On January 18th, 2019, The Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness presented SoP with a challenge that would alter the trajectory of the group’s purpose in a way that no one could have predicted. We were charged with the role, and honor, of providing essential household items for everyday living to formerly homeless individuals/families who had recently been re-homed. Challenge accepted! Within two weeks, a warehouse space was secured and donations began pouring in. Within eight months, Streets of Paradise, working hand-in-hand with Continuum of Care agencies, such as The Salvation Army and Sarasota Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team (H.O.T. Team), had provided much needed furniture and electronics, as well as kitchen and bathroom essentials, to over 100 individuals/families! As of February 2nd, 2020, the number served has grown to 158. It is important to note that SoP is an independent charity that receives no funding from The Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness. Approximately 30% of SoP’s move-in beneficiaries are individually selected by us. Why is our service so important? It is simple. At the end of a year, a re-homed individual or family is 87% more likely to remain in that fully-furnished environment, rather than returning to life on the street. As it turns out, we humans tend to cling to a life that seems worth living. When we feel as if we have something to lose, we generally work hard to keep it!
Streets of Paradise is a secular organization. Just as we serve people of all faiths and those who have no religious affiliations or faith, our all-volunteer force mirrors the general population with regard to diversity. Among us are people of deep faith, from a variety of religions, and people of no faith at all. Comprised of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and races (although we are all members of the human race), the key ingredient that binds us is love. Coming from a place of love in everything we do is the most essential component of our ethos. It is a mandatory requirement that all volunteers are expected to follow. However, Streets of Paradise appreciates the strengths (and weaknesses) of each individual. Discovering and nurturing one another’s gifts and utilizing these qualities to serve our community has enabled us to be successful with our mission.
At present, our number one necessity is a large space in which to store furniture and household items. The need for Streets of Paradise’s services has outpaced our ability to house the quantities of donated goods that have been pouring in. These items are continuously being cycled in and out of our currently jam-packed space. In order to satisfactorily complete eight scheduled move-ins per weekend, a precise orchestration of both loading the truck with warehouse items and collecting remaining needs from donors must occur on move-in day(s). The week prior, potential donations are photographed and selected for specific homes. On move-in day, these gifted items are picked up and weaved into the process throughout the day(s); the necessary furniture is cleaned, added to the warehouse items already packed in the truck, and everything is taken directly to its destination. Once finished there, the crew (or crews) takes unneeded donated items back to the warehouse, unloads them, and replaces them with warehouse items required for the following move-in. A donation pick-up (or pick-ups) follows and the process repeats until our recipients are well-served. We have the dedicated manpower required to pull off these days, which sometimes span 13 or 14 hours. However, we are always left with a full warehouse. This is precisely why a large space for stockpiling furniture and other essentials is so crucial. Primarily collecting donations during the week, cleaning them, and placing them in one large space would streamline the entire operation. We could then select everything we needed from one location on move-in day. Donated storage would be preferable; however, sponsorship is an alternative. A bay door, for easy access to furniture, would be ideal, though not completely necessary. First and foremost, we are healing humans and holding space for their items. A location in or around Newtown would enable us to serve our community best, but we are open to exploring other viable options. Listed below are the most sought-after items that would benefit those who SoP serves.
FOR OUR STREET FAMILY
• Individually-wrapped antibacterial hand and face wipes
• Antibiotic ointment
• Combs/hairbrushes, hair ties and headbands (both cloth and plastic)
• Toothbrushes/travel-size toothpaste
• Travel-size shampoo, conditioner, and lotion
• Insect repellant
• Work boots – most popular sizes: 9, 9 ½, 10 ½, 11, 13
FOR THE RECENTLY RE-HOMED
• Large storage/office space, either donated or sponsored – This is our #1 need.
• Pots and pans
• Flatware in sets of 4
• Baking trays/cookie sheets
• Kitchen knives
• Can openers
• Dish towels and pot holders
• Paper towels
• Dish drainers
• Kitchen trash cans
• Cleaning supplies, including dish soap and laundry detergent
• Kitchen sponges/cloths and scouring pads/powder
• Shower curtains, rings and rods
• Toilet brushes
• Bath mats
• Full-sized shampoo and conditioner
• Toothbrushes and full-sized toothpaste
• Brooms/dustpans and mops/buckets
• Bathroom trash cans
• Toilet paper
• Laundry baskets
• Twin sheet sets and comforters
Photos from Streets of Paradise