Shanetta’s family counted as homeless – Point In Time survey will answer “how many more?”

On Friday night the Coalition participated in the “Point In Time” count, an annual effort by the Homeless Services Network to calculate the number of homeless in Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties. The study is part of a nationwide census that’s used to determine public policy and funding. Across Central Florida, local survey sites extended from emergency shelters and soup kitchens to food pantries and labor pools. While the entire count took almost a week to complete (January 25-31), Friday was reserved for the high volume shelters and soup kitchens.

That’s where the Coalition came in – and sadly, Shanetta and her three children were one of many families at the Coalition to be counted as homeless.

Shanetta’s story isn’t so different than many at the Coalition – she is a single mom trying to make a better life for her three children, and she is finding that doing so isn’t easy, especially now. Shanetta is currently staying at the Coalition’s second campus, the Women’s Residential and Counseling Center, where she is receiving case-managed care to help her get back on her feet.

The number of families like Shanetta’s has increased at the Coalition – last year alone the Coalition provided services to 548 families, showing a 17% increase in services for families over the previous fiscal year.

By participating in the “Point In Time” count, the Coalition helped the Homeless Services Network (HSN) determine the scope, size and characteristics of the homeless population in Central Florida. The final report from last week’s count is expected in early March 2009 and will be used to advise the Central Florida Commission in their Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness. HSN expects the report will continue to inform the Commission’s work as they move from planning to implementation.

Along with the more than 125 agencies that participated in the count, the Coalition is hopeful that the survey results will help enlighten the community at-large about the homeless demographic. 

As we serve families like Shanetta’s each day, we can only hope that the survey spurs our community to action. If we all find a way to get involved in addressing the needs of the homeless, maybe young families like Shanetta’s won’t need to be counted as homeless when next year’s Point In Time count comes around.