Volunteers hope survey will help homeless

Groups counting the homeless in St. Johns County aim for change

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Volunteers in St. Johns County spent the day Thursday conducting a survey to help officials learn just how many people are affected by homelessness in their county, and what can be done about it.

Home Again, a nonprofit organization, is part of the St. Johns County Continuum of Care, which works to put an end to homelessness.

Kassy Guy-Johanessen said staff and volunteers were out from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday for the annual homelessness survey, trying to reach as many people as possible whether in shelters, camps or on the streets.

Mike Silverman is just the kind of person those volunteers were looking for.

He has been without a place to call home for the last year.

“Me and my wife got separated and divorced. Work got real slow. I couldn't find employment,” Silverman said. “It's been rough, I guess you could say, with the weather especially. It's not the greatest lifestyle in the world.”

The survey volunteers conducted with people experiencing homelessness was several pages long and asks important questions, such as:

  • Is this the first time you've been homeless?
  • What was your cause of homelessness?
  • Do you drink alcohol?

“Maybe they need shelter or maybe they need food. We have volunteers all over the county who are asking questions,” Guy-Johanessen said. “We printed out 900 surveys. My hope is that I get every single one back.”

Guy-Johanessen said there’s a major misconception that St. Johns County is affluent, and therefore homelessness isn’t an issue. She said that's not true.

“In our last point in time we had 1,064 individuals and 76 percent of them were unsheltered homeless,” Guy-Johanessen said.

She said lack of affordable housing is an issue, and Home Again is in the process of building 100 units in the next 18 months to house the homeless.

Silverman said that thanks to organizations like Home Again, he’s looking forward to soon having a place of his own again. He said he wants the community to know he and others like him are doing their best.

“Oh, it would be great. I don't know. People look down on people that are in our situation, like we're lower-class citizens, and not all of us are,” Silverman said. “We all just fell under unfortunate circumstances.”

Within the next month, the county should have results from the survey showing whether the number of homeless people has increased or decreased.

The organizations will also examine answers from the surveys to determine the best ways to reach the homeless population in their community.

If you’re interested in volunteering, go to stjohnscountycoc.org.