Thursday, December 31, 2009

How many homeless people?

There are likely half as many homeless in St. Johns County as previously thought, according to a pilot study performed by local volunteers and the University of North Florida.

Volunteers from People United to Stop Homelessness, Food Not Bombs St. Augustine and the community counted around 600 homeless living in the area.

While the numbers aren't final, it's clear that they will show far fewer than the 1,238 the Emergency Services Homeless Coalition said it counted in January 2009.

"We had expected to find significantly more homeless people in the county than previous counts," said Mary Lawrence, count organizer and PUSH member. "While we did not, we believe that our count is more accurate."

But Jean Hardin of Emergency Services Coalition said the agency stood by its count. "I think there's even more than 1,238" homeless, she said.

Social services agencies say the difference in number likely won't impact their funding, but advocates for the homeless say the study could change how the county and public agencies spend their dollars.

"You can pinpoint the population you have and put your resources where they'll do the most good," Lawrence said.

Read the St. Augustine Record article here.

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