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10-year plan aims to end homelessness in Lee

By Staff | May 12, 2009

If there is an upside to the economic downturn, Lee County officials are hoping it is the way the public perceives homelessness.
Interim Lee County Human Services Director Ann Arnall said cultural and class lines have blurred between the haves and have-nots, bringing homelessness closer to home.
Now, people from all walks of life seem to know a family or an individual who has been hit hard by the recession.
“People have been more open or empathetic to the situation (of the homelessness) because the degree of separation has slimmed,” Arnall said. “The face of homelessness has changed.”
Approaching the plight of the homeless with a different set of eyes is the goal of the county’s recently released 10-year plan to end homelessness.
The plan, developed during the country’s plunge into the recession, brought together municipalities, county services and private organizations in an attempt to get a realistic grip on the problems of Lee’s homeless.
As of Jan. 23, there is a projected count of 5,200 homeless in Lee County. The number is a combination of two methodologies — a point in time count and an annualized count.
The point in time count is a look at a sample of the homeless population at any given time — those who are living in emergency or transitional shelters. The annualized count utilizes yearly intake records of homeless provider agencies countywide.
The plan, which Arnall describes as already “in action,” attempts to create a list of objectives that are crucial to staving off homelessness. Housing options, health services, education, transportation and public safety are but a few of the objectives.
Arnall said public awareness, though, could be the most crucial aspect of the goals.
“Whether people care about it or not, it impacts all parts of our community,” she said. “They are still impacted by the issue.”
The plan hopes to dispel the myth of homelessness, in part by showing the face of it has changed.
Lee County Homeless Coordinator Janet Bartos echoed Arnall’s statements, that homelessness is something the public can no longer ignore.
“It’s women and children and those who are students, professionals, the unskilled, the disabled and the able-bodied people alike,” Bartos said. “It can happen to anyone.”
For more information on the 10-year plan, or to read the plan, visit the Department of Human Services Web site at: www.dhs.lee-county.com.