Lakeland hosts homeless outreach fair - WFLA News Channel 8

Lakeland hosts homeless outreach fair

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Lakeland Homeless Outreach Fair Lakeland Homeless Outreach Fair
Lakeland Homeless Outreach Fair Lakeland Homeless Outreach Fair
Lakeland homeless outreach fair Lakeland homeless outreach fair
Lakeland Homeless Outreach Fair Lakeland Homeless Outreach Fair
Lakeland Homeless Outreach Fair Lakeland Homeless Outreach Fair
LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) -

Knowing the number of homeless people in an area translates into how much federal funding is provided to help them.

That’s why Polk County agencies worked Wednesday to get an exact count of just how many homeless live on the streets or in temporary housing. Workers visited the streets and alleys where the homeless stay.

The biggest head-count was at a Homeless Outreach Fair near the Salvation Army in Lakeland where dozens of homeless had gathered.

Last year, the tally of homeless people in Lakeland was more than 400. It’s a number outreach groups are trying to reduce and serve at the same time.

Ricardo Candeleria is one of them. He didn’t want to be at the Homeless Outreach Fair but with no job, a baby on the way and two other kids at home, he needs the help.

“If you've never been in the streets before, it's real hard,” Candeleria said. “You're scared. You don't know where to go. There are always creeps out there. People trying to sell you stuff. They see you with a little bit of money, they want to take you into the alley just to take those two dollars from you,” he said.

Several ministries and agencies in Polk County worked together Wednesday to reach out to people like Ricardo.

It was a two-fold mission: let them know there are people who care and get a count on just how many don’t have a place to call home. While some have been reluctant to show up in the past, on-site services help draw them in, from haircuts to hot meals to the take-away comforts found in a home.

“The word has gotten out there and more people are coming,” Salvation Army’s Jose Padilla said. “They understand that this is for their benefit, so we can show that there is a population of homelessness in our area,” he said.

Agencies worked to get specific information about each homeless person. They were asked about their mental health, any issues of alcohol abuse, and more. The survey will help agencies get a better understanding of the kinds of services that are most needed in Polk County, with the hope that any federal money will be directed where it’s needed most. The surveys will be sent to Washington D.C.

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