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Homelessness plan to be developed

Using money from a recently secured state grant, the Mid-Florida Homeless Coalition has hired a consultant to study the homeless situation in Citrus and Hernando counties.

Pam Alvarez will prepare what is known as a "continuum of care" for the counties, according to DuWayne Sipper, a coalition member and executive director of the Path of Citrus County, a private group dedicated to helping homeless people find Christian living environments.

That continuum of care, which will be similar to a strategic plan, will provide the statistics, background and needs assessment that any number of groups could use when seeking state, federal and private grants, Sipper said.

"They (funding agencies) want to see the whole picture," Sipper said.

The coalition hired Alvarez with $25,000 it received March 1 from the Department of Children and Families. Some of the money is going to another consultant to study homelessness in Lake and Sumter counties, Sipper said.

"For them to come in and write the continuum helps all of our agencies," he said.

Statistics, even basic ones, are difficult to come by when it comes to homelessness in Citrus and Hernando, experts agreed Thursday.

The state estimates that Citrus has 416 homeless people on any given day. The number is slightly greater in Hernando.

Hernando has one homeless shelter, and Citrus has three faith-based shelters, Sipper said.

There are 29 homeless coalitions in Florida, and many of them received similar $25,000 grants, said Vicki Alvey, a DCF employee from Wildwood. The money must be spent by June 30.

The coalition serves Citrus, Hernando, Marion, Lake and Sumter counties, which are the same counties that make up DCF's District 13. Experts already have studied Marion's homeless problem, so that county is not under examination now.

The coalition is a voluntary organization and is not connected with any state agency, Sipper said.

Alvey serves as DCF's liaison to the group, which meets at 10:30 a.m. the last Wednesday of each month at DCF's Wildwood service center on State Road 44 east of Interstate 75.

Separately, the Shared Services Alliance of Citrus County has a committee that studies homelessness in Citrus.