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Hillsborough County homeless numbers released
News, People
Hillsborough County homeless numbers released

Hillsborough County, FL -- Having just 24 hours to count every homeless person in Hillsborough County, 300 volunteers canvassed Hillsborough County’s 1,000 square miles and answered more than 1,100 phone calls on January 27, 2011. 

They counted 17,755 homeless men, women and children living in Hillsborough County. 

Some were living on the street, in shelters, behind buildings and in wooded areas; others were living doubled up with family and friends and in motel rooms.  All lacked a fixed regular nighttime residence.

“This year’s count gives us the best pictures of the homeless situation in our community,” Rayme L. Nuckles, CEO of the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County said in a statement.  “This is the first time we’ve been able to count people living doubled up.  Lacking a fixed regular nighttime residence is really what makes a person homeless.”

Thanks to the Homeless Count phone bank, the Homeless Coalition was able to provide a method for people to call in and report their homelessness.  This especially helped in obtaining information from doubled-up families who otherwise would not have been included in the count.

“We were the only community to utilize a phone bank system during our count,” said Nuckles.  “Based on the success of the process, other communities in the state are looking to us for guidance on implementing this type of system in their communities.”

Other information revealed by the homeless count includes:

  • 23 percent are children
  • 65 percent are men; 35 percent are women
  • 14 percent are Hispanic/Latino
  • 90 percent were already living in Florida when they became homeless
  • 51 percent are experiencing homelessness for the first time
  • 65 percent have a source of income

In 2009, 9,566 homeless people were counted; in 2007, the number was 9,532.  For the most part, the demographics percentages were consistent with past counts, with a couple exceptions: the percentages with a source of income, those experiencing homelessness for the first time and those reporting veteran status.

The percentage of homeless persons with a source of income jumped from 40 percent in 2009 to 65 percent in 2011.  However, the percentage of homeless persons with earned income (employment) dropped from 25 percent to 17 percent. 

Eight percent reported income from unemployment compensation.  This information was not collected in 2009. 

The percentage of homeless persons receiving SSI/SSDI decreased from 32 percent in 2009 to 19 percent.

The percentage of homeless persons experience homelessness for the first time increased from 41 percent to 51 percent. 

Chronically homeless persons, those who have been homeless four or more times, decreased from 40 percent in 2009 to 16.5 percent.

The homeless count data does show the percentage of persons who are veterans decreased to five percent from 17 percent in 2009. 

However, in analyzing the data received from all sources, veteran status was not reported to the Homeless Coalition; which was reported in prior counts. 

“Missing this key count data item did drastically affect this number,” said Nuckles.  “It is unfortunate we did not get this information from them as we have in the past.”

The 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress noted “there is anecdotal evidence that homeless veterans sometimes do not divulge their veteran status to homeless program staff.” 

For the first time, panhandling was included in the list of sources of income.  Seven percent reported panhandling as a source of income.

All information obtained during the homeless count is self-reported by the person being interviewed.  They can choose to not answer questions or even partake in the survey.  This is one of the reasons a homeless count is always an undercount.  The other reason is it is impossible to locate every homeless person in any community. 

In addition to the surveys, data is provided by the Florida Department of Children and Families, Hillsborough County Public Schools and Hillsborough County Jail. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to do a homeless count at least every two years and the count must take place in a single 24-hour period. 

While the federal government revised the definition of homeless person to include people living doubled up as part of the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act which was signed into law in 2009 by U.S. President Barak Obama, HUD only required communities to count people living on the streets, shelters and other places not meant for human habitation. 

The Homeless Coalition decided to count doubled up households because the Florida definition also changed in 2009 and the state government wanted these numbers as well as the fact doing so provides a better picture of the homeless situation in the community.

The next homeless count in Hillsborough County will be conducted in January of 2013. 

For more information about the 20011 homeless count or homelessness in Hillsborough County, visit www.homelessofhc.org.

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