The Suncoast Partnership is looking for volunteers to assist with the Point in Time Homeless Count in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
The count will take place over the course of 24 hours, beginning at 3 p.m. Jan. 27 and ending 3 p.m. Jan. 28.
The count is done over two days because of the span of land they cover. Suncoast Partnership conducts the counts for both Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Suncoast Partnership will hold training sessions in Venice and North Port to help volunteers become accustomed to the survey process.
Systems Administrator Amiee Barth said the training should take no longer than one hour.
In Charlotte County, the PIT count will be conducted Thursday, Jan. 30.
“There is a 10-day period during the last 10 days of January when the count must be done,” said Kelly Hunter, director of Coordinated Services at Gulf Coast Partnership.
Barth said a good volunteer would be someone who is outgoing and willing to approach people. The partnership tries to pair new volunteers with veteran survey takers.
“North Port is such a large geographic area. The population tends to be a little bit transient — they may not be there when someone comes through at 3 p.m, but they might be there at 5 p.m, so we try to overlap it that way,” Barth said.
The more volunteers they have for the count, she said, the more area they can cover.
Barth said this year is particularly important, because of the U.S. Census. They don’t share information, but they can provide aggregate data, which includes demographic information.
“On a local level, (the count) affects the funding that comes into our area to help those who are experiencing homelessness,” said CEO Chris Johnson.
Johnson said he’s unsure whether the population of homeless individuals in our area has gone up or down since last year.
“We never know until we actually get through the process,” he said.
According to the Suncoast Partnership’s PIT count from 2019, there were 594 homeless people in Sarasota County, down significantly from the 971 people identified in 2016.
“We always need more volunteers. The more volunteers participating, the better count we have. We can cover more ground,” said Johnson.
He added he believes people will be pleasantly surprised by their experience volunteering.
“It has real potential to increase the compassion level. I think that’s really vital for community change,” Johnson said.
“I think there is this perceived idea of people experiencing homelessness, when they go and participate in these surveys, it changes their viewpoint,” he added.
The training in Venice will take place from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday at The Salvation Army Venice, 1051 Albee Farm Road. The North Port training will take place from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21 at North Port Social Services, 6919 Outreach Way.
For more information or to register for a training session, contact Amiee Barth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 941-955-8987, ext. 103