Volunteers needed for homeless count | Community Spirit
Tampa, Florida - "How many people are homeless in Hillsborough County?"
This question is one of the most common questions people ask. Many want to know how people become homeless; how many have a mental illness or addiction, and how many are children and veterans. These and many other questions are answered through a homeless count.
Hillsborough County's next homeless count, coordinated by the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County, will be done on Thursday, Jan. 27 between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m.
"Volunteering for the homeless count is a great way for people to learn firsthand about their homeless neighbors," said Rayme L. Nuckles, CEO of the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County. "Volunteers spend several minutes talking to homeless people they meet and ask them a handful of survey questions. It is during this conversation, volunteers get to know their homeless neighbors."
In addition to the traditional street and shelter count, the Homeless Coalition will utilize a phone bank system to allow people to call in to complete the survey and be counted. In 2009, the state expanded the definition of homeless person to include people who are living doubled up with family and friends, paying to live in motels or camping grounds because they lack the resources to secure adequate permanent housing.
"With the change in the homeless definition, we were challenged to find a way for people, especially those living doubled up and unlikely to be counted on the street, to be counted," said Nuckles. "It is important for every homeless person to be counted as this is the only way we can understand and quantify the need in our community."
The Homeless Coalition is the only community in the state utilizing a call-in option and others will be looking to us to see if this pilot program is something they could implement in future counts.
More than 500 volunteers will be needed to help with the count, including 70 to answer calls at the phone bank between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m.
Donations of new socks and rain ponchos are also needed.
Volunteers counting on the streets of the county, will wear bright blue shirts and work in teams of three to visit places where homeless people go as part of their daily activities including homeless encampments, shelters, daily labor sites, meal locations, clothing programs, streets and sidewalks homeless people usually travel and other locations where homeless people gather.
Volunteer will ask each homeless person they encounter to participate in a brief interview survey. Each homeless person participating in the interview will receive a new pair of socks and/or a rain poncho for their time.
Volunteers working in the phone bank will answer calls from homeless people and ask callers the count survey questions.
Thanks to a partnership with Media General, the Homeless Coalition will be utilizing the phone bank at News Channel 8, near downtown Tampa.
"The homeless count is one of the most important projects of the Homeless Coalition," said Nuckles. "The biennial counts help us understand how many of our neighbors are experiencing homelessness, the causes and services needed. This information helps the community better plan and implement long-term workable solutions to truly help our homeless neighbors get off the street."
Socks and rain poncho donations are needed by Monday, Jan. 24 and can be dropped off at: Positive SPIN - (North Tampa) - 7628 N. 56th St., Suite 18, Tampa, 33617; (813)977-7677 - 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., M-F
BioScript (Central Tampa/Ybor) - 1315 E. 7th Ave., Suite 101, Tampa, 33605; (813) 247-4324; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., M-F
Homeless Coalition Office - 2015 N. Nebraska Ave., 2nd Floor, Tampa, 33602 between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., M-F.
Financial donations can also be made for us to purchase these items.
Financial donations can be made at the Homeless Coalition Web site, www.homelessofhc.org or via check and mailed to the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County, PO Box 360181, Tampa, FL 33673-0181.Volunteers will be required to attend a pre-count training session in January.
Complete information on how to help, volunteer and sign up to help is posted on the Homeless Coalition's Web site, www.homelessofhc.org. Information can also be obtained by calling the Homeless Coalition office, (813) 223-6115.