HALLANDALE BEACH (CBS4) – A new census is underway in Broward County. A group of non-profit agencies, faith-based organizations and the county are working to count the number of homeless people living on the county’s streets.
The two-day census figures will help the county receive federal and state grants and ensure that services are reaching the people who need them.
The results will be known in a few weeks.
Oscar Cannon, a case manager with Broward Outreach, walked the streets of Hallandale Beach with a clipboard in hand and hope in his heart Monday night. The clipboard contained a survey inquiring about where a homeless person stayed in the last few days, whether they have served in the military and the reason behind their homelessness.
Cannon has walked this walk. He was homeless 16 years ago as he struggled with addiction. He believes his story helps others realize they, too, can make a change in their lives.
“When (homeless people) see me they say, ‘You still clean?’ I say ‘Yeah, I’m still clean and you could be still clean, too,” he told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “What we do out here is we inspire hope in people.”
While CBS4 cameras walked with Cannon, he encountered a 23-year-old homeless man who did not want to reveal his identity for our cameras but did speak to Cannon.
He admitted he’s been on the streets for six months. He said he wants to work but is finding it difficult.
“It’s hard to do all that when you don’t have a place to clean up,” the homeless man said.
Cannon tried to convince him that there is housing and programs at Broward Outreach that can help him, just as they did for Cannon.
“If I can do it, you can do it,” Cannon told the man.
The county last conducted a survey in 2008. According to numbers submitted to the state, more than 5,200 people were living on the streets in Broward. Broward County’s Homeless Continuum of Care is “committed to eliminating homelessness and improving housing options through the implementation of a comprehensive continuum of care.”
Cannon said they are seeing the effects of the struggling economy.
“I think the amount of families have probably doubled since a couple of years ago,” Cannon said.
A Broward Outreach client named Shatawn (she declined to provide her last name) volunteered to survey the homeless. She said she became homeless three months ago after losing her job at a restaurant and is hopeful she will rejoin the workforce soon.
“Everyone is just one paycheck short of becoming homeless,” Shatawn said. “Whether it be next week, next month, next year, I’m determined to get back on the right track.”
That’s the attitude that Cannon loves. He said there is no better feeling that watching a homeless person transform their lives.
“Working at the Broward Outreach Center I see miracles happen everyday and I’m not just saying that cause I work for them,” he said. “I definitely see it and it’s a good feeling.”