The Lee County Homeless Coalition’s mission is to advocate, educate and promote awareness of obstacles facing the homeless through community collaboration, planning and implementing solutions. The Coalition represents the Continuum of Care, a local planning body that coordinates housing and human services funding for homeless families and individuals. Once per year, the Coalition, in partnership with Lee County Human and Veterans Services and many volunteers, conducts a Point in Time (PIT) census to count the homeless and provide data to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The PIT count is also used to gather the information that allows local service providers to target services to meet the specific needs of the homeless in our communities.
The PIT count, which asked people where they slept the nights of January 23-28, 2023, included both sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families. Volunteers and staff from homeless service providers conducted in-person interviews with persons who were encountered across Lee County for the homeless count.
The PIT count documented 862 homeless persons, of whom 197 were chronically homeless according to the HUD definition. HUD defines chronic homelessness as “an unaccompanied adult homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either continuously been homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”
Among the 862 were 118 children under 18. There were 86 veterans recorded in the PIT count (a large increase over last year.) The total number of persons estimated to be experiencing homelessness in Lee County increased from 2021 and 2022, which had 394 and 560, respectively. The lower estimate in 2021 is reflective of a modified counting methodology due to the pandemic. In addition to the change in methodology, the current housing crisis, soaring rents and the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in the County have contributed to the increased estimates in 2023.
Housing and service programs for the homeless are provided in part through Continuum of Care funds from HUD. Lee County was awarded funding to sustain existing programs and begin new programs that provide housing and services to persons experiencing homelessness. These programs are operated by Lee County Human and Veterans Services, Community Assisted and Supported Living, Catholic Charities, and Southwest Florida Connect SSO-CE. The total awarded amount was $2,012,619.
The Lee County Homeless Coalition would like to extend a special thank you to the volunteers that assisted with this year’s PIT count.