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Count of unsheltered people in Northeast Florida expected to go up

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Changing Homelessness, the lead homeless prevention agency for Clay, Duval and Nassau counties had volunteers out in force on Wednesday for an annual federally mandated Point-in-Time survey of unsheltered people across these three counties.

Volunteer groups started at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, and they’ll continue into 7:30 p.m.

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For the first time since 2020, Volunteers went out in person to get a count of how many people are experiencing homelessness across Duval, Nassau and Clay counties.

”To understand who is on our streets. Why they’re on our streets,” said Shannon Nazworth, President and CEO of Ability Housing.

”We build apartment communities and then own and operate them at very affordable rents,” Nazworth explained.

Her organization receives federal funding and helps people transition off the streets.

So, the data collected in this Point-in-Time survey is critical.

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”There is a human behind every single name, every stat, every number that you’re quoting,” she emphaisized.

Nazworth encourages employees like Cody Spencer to use their work day to go out and help Changing Homelessness, the lead agency gathering data in Northeast Florida.

”It’s the first step to engage with the homeless population in our community,” Spencer said.  “It’s a feel-good event. It’s a great team exercise.”

Volunteers distribute basic supplies to any unsheltered person they encounter. Kits include essentials like a bottle of water and a pair of socks.

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This year, volunteers also have an additional tool they can lean on. They can use an app to conduct this count, which makes getting data back a lot quicker.

”Instead of weeks to months, we should have it in months to days,” said Dawn Gilman, CEO of Changing Homelessness.

Last year, Duval had more than a thousand people (1,049) experiencing homelessness.

”I think the unsheltered count is going to go up,” Gilman said.

She added the focus is on the 55+ age group, to make sure they get the programs and help they need.

”Meet the most vulnerable folks,” Spencer said, “And kinda strategize on how we can help them.”

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