Sarasota United for Responsibility and Equity
SURE’s mission is to unite people of faith in Sarasota County so that they can powerfully hold systems accountable in the community to a Godly standard of justice. For over a decade, SURE has been a definitive ministry in Sarasota, crossing lines of faith, denomination, age, race, geography, and income. Members of SURE congregations work hard to build relationships in their congregations and their communities, discuss their concerns for the city and county, research solutions to serious problems they select, present them to the proper officials and work with them to make “sure” those officials remain accountable.
Restorative Justice In an effort to stop the school-to-prison pipeline and reduce recidivism among youth offenders, SURE worked with Sarasota County Public Schools to begin training and implementing a restorative justice pilot program in 2011 in two district schools – Emma E. Booker Elementary and Booker Middle School. Based on the results in these two schools, the Superintendent of schools has promised to implement this restorative justice program in all 24 county elementary schools by 2015, which will impact over 15,000 students.
Local Hiring Initiative In 2014, after two years of pressure, County Commissioners are moving forward with a program to increase local hiring among county-hired contractors. This program will result in hundreds of local jobs in Sarasota County.
Small Business Development In 2010, SURE got commitments from the City Commission of Sarasota to develop plans for a small business incubator which will provide support for the small business community county-wide.
Education In 2003, SURE got the SCPS Superintendent to implement a proven reading instruction program, Direct Instruction (DI), in elementary schools where less than 50% of students were reading at grade level. Within one year, schools were DI was implemented saw huge gains in reading proficiency, with the program being credited for improving Alta Vista Elementary school from a D level school to an A level.
Public Transportation SURE pushed the Sarasota County Transit Authority to extend bus service to Longboat Key so that lower income residents had access to jobs on the key. Additionally, SURE got the Transit Authority to extend the scheduled time of bus service so that second and third shift workers have access to public transportation.
Crime Reduction and Minority Hiring SURE got the city of Sarasota and city police to successfully implement a Hot Spot crime reporting system that allows residents to anonymously report criminal activity in their neighborhood. The organization also brought pressure around the fact that only 4 out of 300 deputies were people of color and qualified candidates were being overlooked. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department agreed to increase minority hiring. In 2010, SURE convinced the Sarasota County Sheriff to implement a comprehensive substance abuse rehabilitation program in the county jail. To date, this program has cut recidivism among drug and alcohol addicted offenders from 75% to 13%.
Homelessness and Pre-K Programming In 2009, SURE pushed Children First of Sarasota to change its enrollment policies to ensure homeless children have priority status for access to free Early Head Start programs and apply for funding to support this change. This push leveraged more than $1 million for homeless children and saved the community more than $9 million. To date more than 40% of qualifying children have been admitted into quality early learning programs.
Foreclosure Prevention In the summer of 2011, Sarasota County held a Foreclosure workshop which provided homeowners on-the-spot access to bank representatives, non-profit legal aid and credit counselors. Eighty-four percent of those in attendance believe they’ll stay in their homes as a result of the workshop.
Mental Healthcare Access In 2011, Sarasota County Health and Human Services organized a workgroup for the express purpose of improving accessibility to behavioral health services and striving for a continuum of care. In 2012, SURE pushed this group to create a central point of access for mental health services and utilize the 211 referral system to make the system more navigable and accessible for those seeking help.