The Lee County Homeless Coalition, with the help of many volunteers, conducts a census once a year to determine the homeless count and to gather information that allows local service providers to target services to meet the needs of the homeless in the community.
This year's census was conducted Jan. 23. The count consisted of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families. The census was able to document 931 homeless people, of which 177 were considered to be chronic homeless.
HUD defines chronic homeless as "an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either continuously been homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years."
Among the 931 people surveyed, 59 percent reported having a disabling condition. Among the 931 were 75 families with 79 children, representing a 115 percent increase in the number of families over last year. Veterans made up 9.5 percent of those surveyed.
Due to the lack of fixed addresses and the transient nature of the homeless population, it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a true count of the entire homeless population. Thus, the census will always be only a sample of the full population of homeless residents.
Through the use of the Lee County Homeless Management Information System, it is estimated there are 3,000 homeless individuals within the county.
The Lee County Homeless Coalition is an advocacy group made up of community and faith-based service providers, local businesses, people who are experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, and other advocates committed to ending homelessness.
Lee County received $2,089,509 in Continuum of Care/Supportive Housing Program funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist the homeless in 2008. Part of the requirement to receive the funds is a point-in-time count of the homeless in the county.