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Homeless Needs Addressed Following Survey

Sandra Averhart

The Escarosa Coalition on the Homeless (ECOH) is still working to complete its 2015 Point-In-Time Homeless Survey. The annual event is aimed at determining how many homeless people live in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. It’s also about determining and addressing those individual’s most pressing needs.

For the two-county region, the count and survey of unsheltered homeless was conducted over a 24-hour period beginning Wednesday, Jan. 28.

For the past three years, the PIT Survey in the Pensacola area has been followed up with a U-Count Homeless Services Day at Salvation Army.

It is the best that we’ve had thus far…the coordination, collaboration, to me has been unprecedented,” said John Johnson, executive director of the Escarosa Coalition on the Homeless which coordinates the event. Johnson says nearly three dozen service providers were invited and all showed up, setting up a one-stop shop for those in need.

On the healthcare front, the Florida Department of Health in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties and Escambia Community Clinic participated. Also, students from the Crestview campus of the Florida A & M College of Pharmacy were on hand to help.

Laurie Morgan was one of the people who stopped in for a health screening, including a check of her blood pressure and glucose levels.

“It’s very helpful…It’s been a while since I’ve had to have these services, but I still use them every once in a while,” said Morgan. “They were very helpful and I recommend it to anybody that needs help if they are homeless themselves or if they have a place that they always know there’s still somewhere they can come to if they are short or extra and need other items.”

Fifty-two year old Martin Dobbins also took part in the event. Dobbins has been staying at the shelters at Salvation Army and Waterfront Rescue Mission, upon returning to the Pensacola after a brief stay in Georgia.

Let me be the first to say it’s not a good feeling. I don’t think nobody [anyone] wants to be in that predicament. Unfortunately, it do [does] happen.  I just feel as though if you’ve got self-preservation about yourself you’re not gonna stay in that predicament. I mean it can happen to anybody and I just thank God that I got resources,” Dobbins said.

In fact, things are looking up for Dobbins, who says he was rehired by Baptist Hospital and was slated to start the job this week.

Still with needs to be met, he took advantage of the many services available, stopping to talk to representatives of 90Works.

“We have a countdown to self-sufficiency, meaning we assist veterans and regular community people in going from a position of in crisis to stable and thriving. So the plan is we’re gonna try to help them with housing, with employment, transportation, health, safety and support,” said Matthew Peterson, a supervisor at 90Works.

Peterson says 90Works currently has a grant with the VA to assist veterans across the region with housing. They also are providing navigators to assist with the Affordable Health Care Act.

For those needing a job, CareerSource Escarosa was there. Bags of toiletries were distributed. Hot meals were served. And, again this year, instructor Mark Van Arsdale brought students from the Pensacola State College Barber Program to provide free haircuts.

“This actually gives me students a little more practice on their haircuts before they actually graduate and go out into the real world,” said Van Arsdale.

Additionally, the U-Count Homeless Services Day provides one last opportunity for unsheltered homeless to complete the Point in Time Survey, which ECOH director John Johnson says includes a long list of important questions.

“What caused you to become homeless? How long have you been homeless? How long have you lived in the county? What are your immediate needs? What are your immediate housing needs? Do you have any sort of disability, whether it’s mental illness or chronic health problems or HIV/AIDS or anything like that?”

The next phase is to enter that surveys into their computer system. Johnson says the database allows them to dissect the information gathered in order to better understand the people they’re trying to serve.

“So, if I want to understand how many people live in Escambia County, that were veterans, between the ages of 25 and 30, that were homeless, I can run it,” Johnson said.

The data entry process is expected to take a while and volunteers are still needed for the process. After completion, the data will be sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will use it to determine grant awards.

More information about becoming a volunteer is available online at www.escarosa.wordpress.com.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.