Based on a census conducted on the evening of January 25, 2013, the Lee County Homeless Coalition identified 848 sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families in Lee County. Of the total, 193 were considered to be chronically homeless, defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either continuously been homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.
Also among the 848 documented, 54 percent reported having a disabling condition, and 52 were families comprising of 68 children. Veterans made up for eight percent of those surveyed.
In 2012, Lee County received $2,141,034 in Continuum of Care funds from HUD to assist the homeless. Part of the requirement to receive these funds is a “point-in-time count” of the county’s homeless. Once per year, the Lee County Homeless Coalition, assisted by many volunteers, conducts a census to determine this count and to gather information allowing local service providers to target services to meet the specific needs of the local homeless.
Last year, the survey documented 842 homeless persons. “Although there has been a small increase from the 2012 count, it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a true count of the entire homeless population,” said Janet Bartos, executive director of the Lee County Homeless Coalition, “This is due to the lack of fixed addresses and the transient nature of the homeless population, and thus, the census will always be only an estimate of the full population of homeless residents in Lee County.”
Through the use of the Lee County Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), it is estimated there are as many as 2,820 homeless individuals within Lee County.
The Lee County Homeless Coalition is a non-profit organization comprised of community and faith-based service providers, local businesses, people who are currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, and other advocates committed to ending homelessness. The Coalition’s mission is to advocate, educate and promote awareness of issues and obstacles facing homeless individuals in Lee County through community collaboration, planning, and implementing solutions. To help or learn more, contact Janet Bartos at 239-322-6600 or visit www.leehomeless.org.