The annual U-Count Point-in-Time Homeless survey will be conducted from 10 a.m. Jan. 24 through 10 a.m. Jan. 25, and the EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless is looking for at least 100 volunteers to sign up to help with the process.
“It will be twofold,” said John Johnson, executive director of the EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless. “On the very first day, we’re going to be scrambling counting homeless in shelters and in community, and on day two, it will be a tribute to local homeless.”
The U-Count Survey is to determine the needs and extent of the local homeless population in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties, including sheltered and unsheltered men, women and children. The EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless then plans to match the needs of the homeless against the services offered in the community.
Volunteers will help collect surveys and will have scripted questions to ask. Local services will be on hand for the second part of the U-Count survey to help secure temporary housing; sign people up for veteran or public benefits; provide employment counseling and access to medical care; and give haircuts, a hot meal and more. The U-Count Services Day event will take place at EscaRosa’s main office, 2601 West Strong St., Pensacola.
“The premise is to identify individuals that are serious about breaking away from homelessness and link them with services in the community,” Johnson said.
Several mandatory trainings will be offered for those wishing to participate in the survey process. Online volunteer registration is available at www.ecoh.org. The registration deadline is Jan. 15
“We have organizations that specialize in going out,” Johnson said. “Safety is our No. 1 concern.”
In addition to the U-Count Point-In-Time Survey, Johnson said Santa Rosa County is in need of a shelter.
“There are no emergency shelters in Santa Rosa County,” he said. “That’s a need we have that we’re working on. But there are known locations (for homeless to stay).”
On the day of the U-Count, volunteers heading to Santa Rosa will be looking at known ministries, United Way, Family Resource Center and a few other locations.
Supplies are also needed from business and individuals to help those in need, such as gloves, Chapstick, small LED flashlights, duffle bags and backpacks, ponchos, candles, toilet paper, personal body products, men’s clothing and blankets.
According to the 2012 U-Count, 39 percent of people surveyed were chronically homeless. The National Alliance to End Homelessness defines a chronically homeless individual as one who has experienced homelessness for a year or longer or who has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years and has a disability.
Johnson said the homeless count in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties saw a spike in 2005 and again during the BP oil spill.
“Now the numbers seem to be trending downward,” he said. “One of the things we’re trying to get our heads around is the population in the school system. The school system does a count, but because of privacy, they can’t share those numbers and we have to count separately. We do face-to-face count.”
For more information about the U-Count Point-In-Time Survey or the EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless, visit http://escarosa.wordpress.com/.