Volunteers take to the streets to conduct count of people experiencing homelessness in Duval County

Volunteers took to the streets Thursday to conduct an annual count of people experiencing homelessness in Duval County.

This effort serves as a snapshot of that community and helps make sure resources are available to give them the help they need.

From the wee hours of the morning through daylight, News4JAX followed these volunteers as they surveyed Duval County for those experiencing homelessness.

In Five Points, Robbie Conrad with Changing Homelessness spoke with a 20-year Navy veteran who has been living on the street since November.

News4JAX spoke with that veteran on camera. She wants people to get rid of the negative stigma of homelessness and says living this way is extremely difficult.

“It is heartbreaking to hear about some of the physical violence that takes place in the streets, the experience that they have experienced. For instance, at some of the shelters locally, it is heartbreaking, but that is why we are here. That is what our mission is. To help build systems in our community That can help make homelessness, brief, rare, and non-reoccurring,” Conrad said.

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Changing Homelessness is getting a count of how many people do not have a stable place to live right now and what the trends are, according to the organization’s CEO Dawn Gilman.

“Are numbers going up or down? Are the demographics shifting? Are people moving to different places around the county? So, we just have a better idea of what we need is to help and a person’s homelessness,” Gilman said.

During these surveys, these volunteers document information about those who are unhoused, give out hygiene products and direct them to resources available to them like shelters and food banks.

Gilman said this is not only beneficial but necessary.

“There is someone that is out there, it happened. All they are trying to do is try to get back into housing. Homelessness is really driven by the lack of affordable housing,” Gilman said.

Duval County was not the only county where Changing Homelessness was doing this kind of canvas. Over the last year, in Clay County people experiencing homelessness has increased. In Nassau County, there’s been a slight decrease.

Whether people are living outside, in their cars, in shelters or transitional housing.

“This is our way to help reconnect with people and that connection is what helps people stay stably housed, get stably housed,” Gilman said.

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