Volunteers work to count the homeless - WFLA News Channel 8

Volunteers work to count the homeless

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Volunteers go over a questioner with the homeless Thursday morning in Tampa. Volunteers go over a questioner with the homeless Thursday morning in Tampa.

Peter White spent Wednesday night sleeping in a shelter run by a church in Tampa. It's not the place he would like to be.

White says he has worked as a cook in high end restaurants and hotels, but now is having difficulty finding a job. White says he had a job interview, but didn't land the job, because he couldn't make it to the interview. "They would not give me a bus pass. A bus pass. A simple thing as a bus." White says without the bus pass, he couldn't get the job. Without a job, he's living on the streets.

Peter White is just one of thousands of people living on the streets in Florida. Volunteers began the difficult job of counting the homeless early Thursday morning, before the sun came up.

Melissa Brass is one of the volunteers. Brass says, "Everybody has been very open, very nice, especially if I let them know what the survey is for." 

Still, she is frustrated by some of the stories she hears from the homeless.  "It's very frustrating because you see so many able bodied people who are willing to get out there and work and who want to make a living for themselves and they are constantly shut down because of lack of opportunities."

Volunteers also fanned out across Pinellas County, looking for the homeless. Volunteer Norene Dagly found a large number in a park in downtown St. Petersburg.

"It's going pretty well. Yea, people actually come up to us, wondering what are you doing here," says Dagly.

She hopes the information gathered will help.  "I hope it will provide the services that are needed for people with serious mental health problems because I would say that 3/4 of them of mental health problems."

Maria Barcus, who runs the Homeless Coalition in Hillsborough County, says the homeless survey will help. "That data becomes the basis for all of the planning around ending homelessness. It gets reported to local, state and federal government and it's used in all grant applications related to homelessness."

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