a08jan29.htm    St. Pete Times articel


Those without a home tallied

The count will help decide the types of services and funding that are needed.

By HELEN ANNE TRAVIS, Times Staff Writer
Published January 29, 2008

If a family were evicted from their apartment and called Eugene Williams for a safe place to sleep tonight, he fears he would be unable to help.

"Here in Pasco we have no place to send them," said Williams, supervisor for the Pasco Community Development Division and county representative for the Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County.

There are two domestic violence shelters for women and children, and some emergency shelters in case of a temperature drop. But there is no place for families and no transitional housing for the temporarily homeless.

Which is part of the reason why 50 or so volunteers will wake up early Wednesday morning and trek through the woods and the lines outside the day labor centers to tally the number of homeless people living in Pasco County. The count is done nationwide so the federal government knows how much money to send the states.

More money for Pasco could mean more shelters.

The county did the count in 2007 and could have waited until 2009, but Williams doesn't believe the '07 numbers were accurate. He said they counted 1,500 homeless, but the Pasco County School Board reported approximately 1,200 homeless students that same year.

Williams doesn't think those numbers add up.

In the previous tally, conducted in 2006, volunteers counted 3,600 homeless. He did not have the numbers from the prior count.

Those totals may have had an effect on the amount of funding the county received. The state gave Pasco $60,000 in grant money when it reported 3,600, and only $26,000 when it reported 1,500, Williams said. He doesn't know if the funding directly correlated with the numbers, but he wants to make sure the county's tally is accurate this year.

"If they think the problem is gone, they cut the funds," Williams said.

So this year, Williams and a team of volunteers, law enforcement agencies and students from Pasco-Hernando Community College and Saint Leo University scouted out more encampments and more spots in the county where the homeless hang out and look for work.

The count begins at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

In exchange for a blanket and a pack of toothpaste and other necessities, volunteers will ask the homeless for some basic information, like name, age, sex, and how long they've been on the street.

Afterward, the county will have a baseline number of how many homeless people live here, and what kind of services they need.

Community activist Denny Mihalinec is coordinating the count for the east side of the county. Mihalinec is the man behind Journey Village Inc., a nonprofit that wants to build a transitional housing center in the county. He hopes that the county's grant money can help him fulfill his dream, and he's willing to put in the sweat equity the day of the count.

"I'm going to work from 4:30 a.m. until as late as I can, until I fall asleep," he said.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or 352 521-6518.

Fast facts:

Want to help?

The Pasco County homeless count will start at5 a.m. Wednesday. Organizers estimate it will take almost 24 hours. To volunteer, call the Coalition for the Homeless at (727) 842-8605.

[Last modified January 28, 2008, 21:26:35]