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Hillsborough County’s Homeless Count Is About More Than Numbers

Steve Newborn/WUSF
Volunteers arrive at Trinity Cafe on Nebraska Avenue in Tampa to help with Hillsborough County's annual homeless population count.

Nearly 500 volunteers fanned out across Hillsborough County Thursday to tally the county’s homeless population.

Susan Raines was one of them. She said the annual survey is a good way for nonprofits and government agencies to know if their strategies to fight homelessness are working.

“You know, if it’s trending downward they want to keep doing what they’re doing. If, for instance, homelessness goes up they want to look and see, 'Did we have a hurricane and people lost their housing?' Or what’s going on?”

Volunteers ask homeless people about their income, how long they've been homeless, and what factors contribute to their homelessness.

According to last year's survey, the county's homeless population grew, with 10 percent of new homeless individuals saying they were displaced in the 2017 hurricane season.

The annual count helps determine Hillsborough County's federal funding to help homeless people.

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.
Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.