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Local News

2014 Point-In-Time Homeless Survey Underway

PIT_Homeless_Count.jpeg
Escarosa Coalition on the Homeless

The annual Point-In-Time Homeless Survey is getting underway around the country. The survey, required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD, is conducted over a 24 hour period to count sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons. Data collected helps to determine their most pressing needs. 

The Escarosa Coalition on the Homeless is one of over 400 ‘Continuums of Care’ nationwide to participate in the PIT surveys to be conducted over the last 10 days in January. The count of homeless people in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties is being conducted from 10 a.m. this Wednesday, Jan. 22 through Thursday, Jan. 23.

John Johnson is executive director of the Escarosa Coalition on the Homeless and will be leading this year’s Point-In-Time Homeless Survey in the Pensacola Metro Area. Johnson says “For me, this point-in-time is probably the most important that I’ve had since I’ve been with the Homeless Coalition.”

Johnson has been with the coalition since the mid 2000’s. He says the reason why it’s so important is because homelessness has gone down on national and state levels, but has gone up locally.

“I want to make sure if there are any inaccuracies in how we count or if there is some other extending circumstances that have caused this influx to occur. I want to be able to identify it. That’s why this count is probably the most important that we’ve had,” Johnson says.

The 2013 count in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties showed 945 homeless people were surveyed, including 382 unsheltered. Two-hundred-thirty four were chronically homeless and 182 suffered from mental illness. Also, 168 were military veterans, although Johnson says the total number of homeless vets in the area has been trending down. He’s more concerned now about a possible rise in homelessness among children. Johnson cites the recent end of a long-running HUD-funded program and the fact that the school year ended with over 3,000 homeless students in the two-county area.

The Escarosa Coalition on the Homeless will find out for sure, when the survey is conducted from 10 a.m. Wednesday through 10 a.m. Thursday. Throughout the 24-hour period, teams of volunteers are being deployed to locations where homeless people are known to congregate.

Johnson says the one-on-one surveys take about five minutes each and involve a series of crucial questions designed to help service providers understand what homeless individuals feel they need to help them end their homeless.

In addition to housing, health care, transportation, and substance abuse treatment have been listed as the most pressing needs in past surveys. To address those needs, the Escarosa Coalition on the Homeless will follow the survey with their second annual U-Count Homeless Services Day on Thursday. The event, set for Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army in Pensacola, will provide a one-stop opportunity for services. 

“We’re gonna have mental health, so Lakeview Center will be represented.  We’re gonna have the medical field represented, so we’re gonna do blood pressure checks, diabetes testing, and AIDS testing. The Florida Department of Health is actually gonna be providing tetanus shots and swabbing for the flu,” Johnson says.

Additionally, volunteers will be on hand to help secure temporary housing and sign people up for veteran or public benefits. Also, haircuts and hot meals will be provided.

Meantime, in Okaloosa and Walton counties, the total number of homeless people in 2013 was 1,658 – both sheltered and unsheltered.  More than 600 of those were children; 265 were veterans and 94 suffered from chronic drug abuse.  Forty were victims of domestic violence.  Opportunity, Inc. – the Continuum of Care serving Okaloosa/Walton – will conduct their 2014 Point-In-Time Survey on Saturday, Jan. 25 through Sunday, Jan. 26, beginning and ending at sundown.

More information about homelessness in Northwest Florida is available at www.ecoh.org or www.okaloosawaltonhomeless.org/.