Survey counts homeless in Hillsborough

03/27/08 Seán Kinane
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Today the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County conducted a "street survey" of homeless people in the county. Teams of volunteers and government workers fanned out across the county to give a 19-page questionnaire to as many people without permanent housing as they could.

Lesa Weikel, community relations manager for the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County, said the purpose of the survey is to determine what types of services are needed.

“The survey that we’re conducting out on the streets is part of a three-month research project to get a really clear picture of who our homeless neighbors are, why they became homeless, what services they’ve accessed, what services they’ve tried to access but aren’t available so that we can really come up with the services that they need as part of our 10-year plan to end homelessness.”

Weikel said that previous surveys have found that there are 9,500 homeless people in Hillsborough County, but this one asks more detailed questions.

“Well, actually this is the first in-depth survey that we have done like this. In the past we have just done our point-in-time which is a 24-hour, 10 questionnaire to really see how many people are homeless. This survey is really to get into the depths of the causes and the services needed.”

Before they went out to give the 130-question survey in central Tampa, north Tampa and Brandon, the teams prepared hygiene kits to give out to people after they had completed the survey.

Harry McCurdy works with the Homeless Veterans Program at the VA and surveyed the homeless near Columbus and Nebraska north of downtown.

“So far they’ve been real receptive. Yeah, they’re real interested in giving the information because they want to get assistance and so forth to help them and help other homeless people out.”

Joseph Eric Malcolm said the survey went “real good” and he was asked everything but the size of his shoes. He told WMNF the types of services that would help him.

“I don’t have no money to get my mouth fixed. I need glasses, I can’t see, I’m nearsighted. Okay. I need a place to stay to where I can afford. At my age now I can’t work like I used to work,” Malcolm said.

Soriano Arrelio Jr. said that the survey was easy to do. The county needs to have better dental health care available for people with low incomes, according to Arrelio.

Before she took the survey, a woman who gave her name only as Hazel told WMNF that her family’s meager income of $1,000 per month disqualifies her for some services. She moved to Florida six months ago because the cost of living was supposed to be lower here than in New York, but she can’t make ends meet.

The results of the survey should be available on the Homeless Coalition’s website in May.

Photo credit: Seán Kinane/WMNF

Learn more:

Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County

Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County, (813) 223-6115

Lee Davis Neighborhood Service Center

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