Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Homeless Count in Duval, Clay, Nassau Jan. 22; Volunteers Are Needed; Survey Is to Help Communities Focus Services

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Homeless Count in Duval, Clay, Nassau Jan. 22; Volunteers Are Needed; Survey Is to Help Communities Focus Services

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

Volunteers are needed for the annual Homeless Point in Time Count, which will be held Jan. 22 in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.

Managed by the Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition of Northeast Florida, the counts are required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of a national census of the homeless population.

The survey information collected during the count helps communities learn about their homeless populations and how to better serve them. Also, the data are used to calculate state and federal funding, including the federal Continuum of Care Grant, which allocates $4 million a year to coalition members that provide emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing and other services.

"With this data we can develop a comprehensive strategy to solve the problem," said Shannon Nazworth, executive director of Ability Housing of Northeast Florida, which is part of the coalition.

Also, the results of the Duval count will be used to help implement the ongoing 100 Homes Jacksonville initiative, which identifies medically vulnerable and chronically homeless individuals, prioritizing them for permanent housing.

"We will be asking people for their information which will then be used in the prioritization process," said Nazworth, whose agency leads the 100 Homes effort. "This helps us identify the services they will require when they move into permanent housing."

Being one of the people who meet, count and survey the homeless can be "a powerful experience," said Marti Johnson, the coalition's Supportive Services for Veteran Families program director, who has participated in the past two counts.

"When teams arrive back at headquarters for debriefing, the story that is most often told is of how this experience has changed them," she said.

"Once you learn the stories of the homeless, it becomes more difficult to apply labels. You come to understand that***there are striking similarities between our lives."

Robyn Andrews, an Ability Housing programs assistant and president of the Coalition for the Homeless of Nassau County, said many volunteers find that their perceptions of the homeless were off base. …

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