Volunteers out surveying homeless in Hillsborough - WFLA News Channel 8

Volunteers out surveying homeless in Hillsborough

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Volunteers wearing these t-shirts will count the homeless Thursday Volunteers wearing these t-shirts will count the homeless Thursday
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Volunteers are scouring streets, alleys, and woods looking for people who don't have homes.

About 300 volunteers will take part in the one-day homeless survey in Hillsborough County. Many of them gathered early Thursday morning at eight different deployment sites to pick up their surveys and bright yellow T-shirts.

"These are individual people. Each has its own story, usually a very compelling story and they need help," explained Maria Barcus, CEO of the new Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.

Starting this year, the survey will be completed annually instead of every two years to try to get a better grasp on exactly who needs help.

Barcus says Hillsborough County would like to mirror what's happening in St. Louis, Missouri where a 10-year plan has resulted in more funding and a huge reduction in the chronic homeless population. She recently visited there with other county leaders.

"We saw close coordination between the local government and the state government, which is something that we're working on that we want to achieve," she explained. "They have more HUD funding and they have a dedicated source of funds that generates about $5 million per year. So just their ongoing funding is three times what ours is."

Barcus calls the data that will be collected Thursday "a baseline" for a new homeless strategy that's being developed. The action plan will be released in March.

2,275 homeless were counted on the streets of Hillsborough County in 2013. County leaders say the real number is far higher and there aren't enough beds for everyone who needs them.

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