The latest census of Pinellas County's homeless reveals troubling information about children. Of those without permanent homes in the county, 40 percent are younger than 18, reflecting a 2 percent increase from a year ago.
If there is good news, homelessness shows what appears to be an infinitesimal decline.
According to the 2011 point-in-time count conducted on the night of Jan. 23 by volunteers for the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless, 5,887 people were without homes, compared with 5,949 a year earlier.
"That still means, over the course of the year, we are looking at 22,000 people who will be homeless, because most people are not homeless every day during the course of 12 months," said Sarah Snyder, executive director of the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless.
"If they get money, they'll go rent a hotel room or . . . they would go rent an apartment for a week or two and then they're homeless the rest of the month."
Snyder attributed the slight drop in homeless numbers to a decrease in those who live on the streets and are not in shelters or other temporary quarters. She pointed out that the county's newest shelter, Pinellas Safe Harbor, opened two weeks before the Jan. 23 count. The shelter had 233 people that night. "That's 233 people we would have found on the street," Snyder said.
The new count continues to reflect the nation's economic crisis, with a majority of those who participated in the survey blaming layoffs and other financial setbacks for their predicament.
The Pinellas School District reported 2,110 students without stable housing, 80 percent doubled up with others, perhaps sleeping on the couches of family members or friends. Others lived in motels, in emergency or transitional housing, or in cars, parks and campgrounds.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.