The Jacksonville nonprofit Changing Homelessness will conduct its first-ever summertime homeless census next week.
One volunteer participating in the count is 65-year-old Ted Ralston. The retired Detroit construction superintendent said only one thing really surprised him when he started helping homeless service organizations six years ago.
“I did not expect to see that many veterans on the street,” he said. “I mean, right now our veterans are revered while they’re serving. As soon as they leave the service, most people don’t care. And they need a lot of help.”
Homeless veterans are a special focus of next week’s count, said Lauren DiAmico with Changing Homelessness. The nonprofit and others have a goal of bringing veteran homelessness down to what's called "functional zero," meaning so few veterans are homeless that anyone who loses his home suddenly can get a new one within a month.
While data suggest their numbers have dropped significantly in recent years, DiAmico said the census will help the organization provide more targeted assistance to those who are still homeless.
“How many veterans are remaining on the streets, and of those veterans remaining on the streets, why are they still there? If we have the resources in the area to address those needs, what do we need to do to better connect those last few to those resources?" she said.
Volunteers will conduct the homeless count Wednesday, Aug. 16, in the early morning and evening in downtown Jacksonville, Orange Park and at the Beaches.