Group seeks volunteers to help in annual homeless count

JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Changing Homelessness is looking for volunteers for its annual census and survey of the homeless population required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Last year, volunteers counted more than 1,600 people experiencing homelessness in Northeast Florida, down 32 percent from a decade earlier.

Changing homelessness will hold this year’s count next week, in an effort to continue this trend.

Volunteers are needed to go out into the community in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties to speak with people who are homeless to learn about their circumstances. They will survey those living in shelters and living on the streets.

"While it is only once a year, it is our longest sort of longitudinal look at how are we doing as a community," said Dawn Gilman, CEO of Changing Homelessness.

The information gathered gives insight into the needs of the homeless and how to address them. First-time volunteers will need to go through training to learn the best practices to engage and to get comfortable asking questions.

"You have a set list of questions that you're asking people," explained Gilman. "Part of them are demographic questions. We're looking for who are you, age, ethnicity, family composition. Then we also ask other questions that get to the why, what else happened, what led you to becoming homeless."

The Point in Time Count is Wednesday, January 22 in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties. To volunteer during or after the count, visit changinghomelessness.org.

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