HOMELESS HEROES HONORED IN HILLSBOROUGH by Roxanne Escobales

11/14/06

Today in Tampa the 20-year-old Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County held its annual meeting. Aside from the business of reviewing its annual report, the coalition recognized what it calls Homeless Heroes. CEO Rayme Nuckles announced the winners, and read descriptions of them from their nomination applications. But first he read the lyrics to a Mariah Carey song.

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Case manager assistant Sharon Singletary has worked for Mental Health Care in Tampa for only nine months. A former crack cocaine addict, Singletary suffers from bipolar disorder.

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Hillsborough County has the sixth largest homeless population in the country with 11-thousand homeless. 30 to 40 percent of them are veterans. For the past 12 years, Gerard Hendrickson has worked for the VA’s homelessness program. The Coalition’s Rayme Nuckles describes why Hendrickson was honored for his work.

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Gerard Hendrickson has only modest explanations for why he does what he does.

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Hendrickson says that usually homeless vets suffer from addiction and mental health problems, which put them on the street. Most of the vets he works with come from the Vietnam era and some from the first Gulf War. But he does have one case from the current war in Iraq.

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The Homeless Coaltion’s Rayme Nuckles said it took three weeks of deliberation to choose the outstanding agency of the year.

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The Homeless Education and Literacy Project is run by Hillsborough County Schools. Kathy Wiggans is its project manager. Three months into the school year, the project has identified 11-hundred homeless children.

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Wiggans says many homeless families are what’s known as double-upped.

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November 12th through 18th marks the National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. For more information on homelessness, visit the Coalition’s website at homelessofhc.org.

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