(WKRG) — In 2020, the census found that Escambia and Santa Rosa County’s had an increase in their unsheltered homeless population. A problem that the newly started Northwest Florida Homeless Task Force has made its priority to change.
Almost 1,500 and 4,000 children are homeless on any given day in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
Homeless resident Sam Adair says, “I have a cardboard sign that says, ‘Homeless, please help,’ and I just stand out next to the road, but it’s humiliating.”
Adair says he just moved down here from Kansas City, where he was also homeless. Trying to find work, he tells WKRG News 5 he ended up under the I-10 Bridge.
Adair says, “We were amazed. He was from Minnesota, I’m from Kansas City, and it was like a camp and nobody was hassling them and nobody was trying to run them out.”
It’s a site the homeless reduction task force has been working on to make sure nobody has to reside to anymore.
Executive Director of Open Doors and Co-chair of Homeless Reduction Task Force John Johnson says, “When you think about homelessness, there are families, individuals, runaways, there are youth. We are this corridor, and it’s a beltway for human trafficking. You think about veterans you think about those who are mentally ill.”
This task force is split into six sub-committees, consisting of about 15 local agencies, planning on hitting every area needed:
- Health care
- Case management
- Food programs
- Legal services
Johnson says, “Now my goal would be that we definitely have a system of care response to homelessness that addresses an intentional and a very deliberate response.”
Since officially starting in May, they have been able to help 15 people get through this housing crisis but they say many more are to come.
Some of the other objectives include:
- 15% increase in shelter capacity for families and women
- 15% increase in funding to providers of homeless services
- 15% increase in utilization of mental health and treatment services
- 15% increase in follow up case management services to newly housed
- 20% increase in Permanent Affordable Housing beds (50 additional)
- 15% reduction in “homeless hot zones”
- 10% reduction in E.R visits by the homeless populations
- 10% reduction in court interaction by homeless persons
Most importantly, the program gives people like Sam Adair a second chance and a little hope they are looking for.
“I can type really fast, I’m good with a computer. But for some reason it hasn’t happened,” Adair said.
If you would like to help, contact:
Opening Doors NWFL
1020 North New Warrington Road
Pensacola, FL 32506
Pathways For Change
30 South Spring Street
Pensacola, FL 32502