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Pinellas County volunteers survey homeless population

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Hundreds of volunteers began searching for those who don’t have permanent housing early on a Thursday morning in late January.

Pinellas County volunteers came prepared with bags of toiletries, granola bars and clothing to entice homeless people to take part in a detailed survey aimed toward getting a clearer picture of what those in the homeless community need.

Cliff Smith, count co-coordinator said, “Once you know the extent of the problem you can direct funds to where they are needed.”

This year’s count is expected to be the most accurate in its history; likely because of better survey conditions and methods used, and the final numbers for the count are not expected to be known until at least early April.

The last time the count was performed in Pinellas County, 5,887 homeless people were recognized. At the same time, Hillsborough County had more than three times that amount.

One advantage Pinellas has over rural counties, as is the case with Hillsborough, is that it is easier to recognize homeless people in a more urban area that has fewer wooded areas to conceal homeless encampments, as well as the use of the new shelter in Pinellas this year

Pinellas Safe Harbor opened up in Clearwater two years ago and it gave volunteers one more place to locate a larger amount of its homeless citizens.

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