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Homeless census reports a decrease in street-dwellers

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Arielle Rolle-Polk reported for WUFT-TV.

After a census of the homeless population last month, the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry reports the count decreased from last year.

In 2012, there were 1,107 people living on the streets of Gainesville. Now, in February 2013, the street count is a total of 987.

The director of the coalition, Theresa Lowe, expressed concern for accuracy regarding the surveying methods used this year. The coalition only spent one day surveying homeless people, instead of two days, which it did last year.

The coalition had homeless participants surveying alongside coalition volunteers for $10 an hour. Their familiarity with common homeless hangouts and tendencies aided the coalition in acquiring more accurate numbers.

“They know where to look,” said Lowe. She recalled a homeless volunteer following a trail into the woods she would have never thought to pursue.

The coalition reported 477 homeless school children, an increase from the 316 recorded in 2012. This number doesn’t include school-age parents or siblings who aren’t in school.

“Parents don’t particularly want to advertise that they’re homeless,” Lowe said, which makes it difficult to conclude the exact amount of school-age homeless people. Lowe estimates the number is closer to 1,500.

Of all homeless children in Gainesville, 21.5 percent have been in foster care.

“It’s probably a result of instability at a very early age,” Lowe said. “Once they age out, they have no place to go.”

Lowe said part of the coalition’s funding is contingent on the poll’s findings, and it helps to create more programs to assist local homeless. Moreover, the survey increases awareness of the local homeless residents.

“By giving them numbers it helps change the face of homelessness,” she said.

The final report, which will contain more in-depth statistics, is incomplete but will be released during the first week of March.

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