published: Friday, January 04, 2013
Homeless Coalition preps for annual count under new director
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
AVON PARK - As the new year begins, local agencies and organizations are gearing up for a new work load and all that comes along with it.
The Highlands County Coalition for the Homeless is one of those agencies and since its newest change in leadership, the organization is headed in a better direction under the supervision of Executive Director Lisa Lucas.
Lucas's first big task at the HCCH is to conduct the annual Point-In Time Survey. Each year in Highlands County and throughout the state of Florida, homelessness advocates and agencies team up to collect the most up to date data.
During the survey, members of the HCCH and volunteers travel throughout the county taking a raw count of how many individuals and families are currently without homes.
The count is somewhat skewed however; the survey does not include individuals who are currently without their own homes but are living with friends or family. The survey provides vital information to organizations about the homeless population in the area. According to last year's survey, headed by former HCCH Interim Director Joann Souther, the homeless population of Highlands County at the time of the January 2012 survey was nearly 40 persons living without any type of housing or shelter.
Within the four county district of Highlands, DeSoto, Hardee and Okeechobee, the HCCH reported nearly 300 homeless individuals. The survey serves as the key point in helping those who fall into the homeless category.
"The Point in Time Count is required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development each year," Lucas stated. "It is important to have an accurate count of our homeless population in order to bring resources to our area to assist those men, women and children who are homeless through no fault of their own."
The PIT survey works only through a dedicated team of volunteers. The HCCH recruits local individuals, businesses and organizations to be a part of the endeavor. Volunteers are trained and taught all about the survey before participating in the count. Training sessions are currently being scheduled and will be taking place on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
"You will learn more about the PIT Count and its importance at the first training meeting ... bring friends neighbors and family members who may also be interested," Lucas said.
Interested volunteers may chose either morning or evening training sessions. Following sessions, the volunteers will be placed onto pre-selected teams where they will work to complete this year's PIT count.
For more information or interested volunteers may contact Lucas at the Highlands County Coalition for the Homeless office at 452-1086.
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