Homeless numbers growing in Sarasota, Charlotte

ENGLEWOOD — Tuesday’s Just Neighbors meeting at St. David’s Episcopal Church served as a humble reminder that the numbers of homeless people in Sarasota and Charlotte counties are growing.

“Activity has increased,” said Pat Knox, outreach minister of St. David’s. “People are struggling. It’s better that we take care of the homeless here where we can provide than when they’re stealing from our neighborhoods.”

Counting the homeless is not so easy.

Knox recently took a census of homeless people in the Sarasota County portion of Englewood.

“I’ve counted 21 in Englewood on the Sarasota end,” Knox said. “They’re at least the ones who were willing to be counted. I know there are easily (at least) 50 in Englewood. I know of 17 at the food pantry I haven’t been able to reach.”

Knox says she only had one day to take a count, and one of the main reasons why the number may be low is the lack of advertising.

Twenty-seven people attended the Just Neighbors meeting. Just Neighbors is a consortium of individuals and organizations in Englewood that help the homeless.

According to the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition, there were 722 registered homeless in Charlotte County in 2012, compared with 1,017 in 2011. The 2012 study counted only homeless people living in shelters, whereas in previous years, other homeless were considered as well.

Homelessness has been on the rise since 2010, according to the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness in Sarasota. There were 4,106 homeless in Sarasota County in 2012, of which 883, or 22 percent, lived in South County. There were 3,985 homeless in 2011, of which 617, or 15 percent, lived in South County.

Mike Riley, spokesman for Charlotte County Public Schools, reports 338 homeless students currently registered, compared with 383 for the 2011-2012 school year.

As of December in Sarasota County, there were 360 registered homeless students, compared with 925 reported in the previous school year, according to Ellen McLaughlin, contracted homeless liaison for Schoolhouse Link for the Sarasota YMCA.

“When you’re a father and you can’t provide for your children, sometimes you have to do things you wouldn’t normally do,” said Wendy Beam, a volunteer for Project Phoenix (an Englewood organization that helps families who have lost everything), who attended the meeting. “But just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you’re a criminal. Some are homeless by choice, and there are a lot of organizations in the area who can help.”

THE HOMELESS POPULATION IN CHARLOTTE, SARASOTA COUNTIES

The federal definition of homeless includes people who live with family and friends for temporary hardship.The definition is based on the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 2009. For more information, go to portal. hud.gov/hudportal/documents/ huddoc?id=HAAA_HEARTH.pdf.

Homeless in Sarasota County   

2012: 4,106

2011: 3,985

2010: 3,814

— Source: Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness in Sarasota

Homeless in Charlotte County   

2012: 722*

2011: 1,017

2010: 598

— Source: Charlotte County Homeless Coalition

*Only the homeless living in shelters were counted in Charlotte County in 2012. Numbers in 2010 and 2011 include homeless living in shelters and other places.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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One Response to Homeless numbers growing in Sarasota, Charlotte

  1. America needs to do more for the homeless and stop spending on THINGS that do not matter. I appreciate your story Tom Chang, thank you.

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