Letter to the Editor: 2015 Charlotte County homeless point-in-time count

graph for homelessTo the Editor:

The Homeless Coalition’s 2015 Point-in-Time Count indicates that across Charlotte County during a 24-hour time period, 548 people were considered homeless, as defined by the federal Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH).” These people made up 402 different households. The count included those staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing and places not meant for human habitation.

The homeless count is accomplished through partnerships with several agencies in the community including: Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Jewish Children & Family Services, Charlotte County Public Schools Homeless Education Project, Coastal Behavioral Health Care Compass Program, Jesus Loves You Ministry, The St. Vincent de Paul’s located at Sacred Heart, San Antonio, St. Charles Borromeo and St. Maximilian Kolbe, incent de Paul, Englewood Helping Hand, St. Francis of Assisi and volunteers from the AmeriCorps Vista Project of the Homeless Coalition.

Analysis of the data revealed some very positive moves forward in decreasing homelessness in Charlotte County. First, the trend of reducing homelessness among Veterans continues. Over the past three years Charlotte County’s collaborative efforts have reduced the homeless Veteran population by 25 percent. Jewish Children & Family Services Operation Military Assistance Program, Renaissance Manor’s Stillwater Program, and Volunteers of America Punta Gorda have played a significant role in keeping Veterans and their families housed, and quickly rehousing those that are experiencing homelessness.

Another positive indicator is that our county’s permanent residents are experiencing homelessness less often and for shorter periods of time. This could mean our community is doing a better job targeting Homeless Prevention Services, such as rent and utility assistance to keep more households safely housed.

The Homeless Point in Time Count Survey Tool asks – “What caused you to become homeless?” For many over the last five – six years having “no financial resources” was one of the leading factors. The recent survey saw a decrease in this category, as homeless families and individuals are beginning to access more employment opportunities.

Recently, the Gulf Coast Partnership, Charlotte County’s Continuum of Care Lead Agency, released The 10 Year Plan to Prevent & End Homelessness in Charlotte County. The plan is a communitywide initiative and is publically supported by the City of Punta Gorda, the Board of County Commissioners, and the Charlotte County Public Schools School Board. The plan can be viewed at www.gulfcoastpartnership.org/10-year-plan/.

If you would like to join this community campaign to end homelessness and poverty in our community, please contact Homeless Coalition, Volunteer Coordinator – Robin Clark at (941) 627-4313 x109.

Robin Clark

Murdock