Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Volunteers take to woods, roads to survey Hernando's homeless population

BROOKSVILLE — It was cold Saturday morning as volunteers conducted Hernando County's annual homeless census. But none of those interviewed by volunteers complained of the weather. What many wanted was some kind of work. "I'm doing fine. I've got six jars of peanut butter," said Larry Workman, 50. "I could use a job. And a raincoat." The Mid Florida Homeless Coalition coordinates the annual census, which is needed to secure state and federal funding for support services across the county. A final tally is expected this week.

Many of the woods were empty as volunteers searched the Brooksville area. Several people said police have made it harder to live off the land this year, arresting the homeless for trespassing or panhandling.

"Most of them moved out," said Grady Moore, 51, who has been homeless for several years. "Maybe their lives got better."

While several people were willing to talk and share their stories, getting an accurate count was difficult.

"I'm going to jail for three days if they see me standing here holding this sign one more time," said Robert Clyde, 51. "I'm not robbing stores. There's hardly any work for day laborers."

One camp was empty Saturday. Tattered newspapers, a child's blue fleece cap and a Christmas ornament hung from a vine — clues to whoever might have been there before or whoever might return later in the day.

Volunteers Jim Yeske and Fred Glass conducted formal surveys as they interviewed the homeless they met. They were sympathetic to requests for work.

But everyone knew the bottom line. With unemployment in the county at an 18-year high at 10.9 percent, job prospects are bleak.

For some, particularly those who are able to stay with friends or relatives while they save up to have their own residence again, it's difficult to ask for help. These "nearly homeless" are also difficult to track.

For Rachel Sysol, 21, and her husband, Joseph Hawkins, 26, work has been difficult to find. On Saturday, they helped his mother and a friend find and load scrap metal to sell.

Sysol had worked as a cook in the Army and recently returned from being stationed in Belgium.

"We chose to come home at the wrong time," she told her husband, whose family they are staying with. "We should have just stayed over there."

But she wasn't ready to ask this group for help, saying she had some job leads later in the day.

David Strausbach, 49, worked as a contractor when he moved to Hernando County two years ago. Now, he considers himself lucky to have a tent over his head.

"Is there anything I could bring you later on?" Yeske asked, handing him a couple of Quaker granola bars.

"I need a job," said Strausbach, "just a job."

Volunteers take to woods, roads to survey Hernando's homeless population 01/25/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 25, 2009 6:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Lego T-rex and scores of other brick sculptures free to see in Tampa


    TAMPA — Envision the effort that went into building a basic Lego model with your kids. Now imagine arranging the same toys to look like the Mona Lisa or an 80,020-piece Tyrannosaurus rex.

    Eliana Goldberg, 5, of Wesley Chapel looks at a Lego sculpture called "Everlasting" at The Art of the Brick exhibit, which opened Friday in Tampa and runs through Sept. 4. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  3. Rick Scott signs medical marijuana, 37 other bills into law


    Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott
  4. St. Pete qualifying ends. Seven for mayor. Eight for District 6 on primary ballot


    The smiles of the faces of the workers in the City Clerk’s office said it all. The qualifying period for city elections was almost over.

    City Clerk Chan Srinivasa (2nd left) and Senior Deputy City Clerk  Cathy Davis (1st left) celebrate the end of qualifying period with colleagues on Friday afternoon
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.