JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Changing Homelessness, the leading homelessness prevention agency for Clay, Duval and Nassau counties, dispatched volunteers Wednesday for a federally mandated annual one-time survey of people experiencing homelessness in these three counties.
Volunteer groups began at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and will continue until 7:30 p.m.
For the first time since 2020, volunteers came out in person to count how many people are experiencing homelessness in Duval, Nassau and Clay counties.
”To understand who is in our streets. Why are they on our streets,” said Shannon Nazworth, president and CEO of Ability Housing.
“We build apartment communities and then own and operate them with very affordable rents,” Nazworth explained.
His organization receives federal funds and helps get people off the streets.
Therefore, the data collected in this point-in-time survey is critical.
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“There is a human being behind every name, every statistic, every number that you are citing,” he emphasized.
Nazworth encourages employees like Cody Spencer to use their work day to get out and help Changing Homelessness, the lead agency that collects data in Northeast Florida.
“It’s the first step in engaging 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 homeless people they find. The 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 that they can lean on. They can use an app to perform this count, which makes retrieving the data much faster.
“Instead of weeks or months, we should have it in months or days,” said Dawn Gilman, executive director of Changing Homelessness.
Last year Duval had over a thousand people (1049) homeless.
“I think the number of people without shelter is going to go up,” Gilman said.
He added that the focus is on the 55+ age group, to make sure they get the programs and help they need.
“Get to know the most vulnerable people,” Spencer said, “and come up with a strategy for how we can help them.”
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