Where did the homeless in North Port go?

Updated: Jan. 29, 2020 at 4:30 PM EST
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NORTH PORT, Fla. (WWSB) - Volunteers across Sarasota County had 48 hours to count the homeless population in each area. However, to much surprise… some cities didn’t have many people to count.

For example, when volunteers got to Veterans Park in North Port - where homeless are known to camp out - they found no one.

It didn’t just happen there. At almost all of the usual camps throughout the city, the homeless were gone. Volunteers were only able to give the survey to four homeless individuals.

“The homeless issue is still out there, and they are still in need of services. We are very aware of who are homeless individuals are,” Officer Erin Finnegan, North Port Police’s Homeless Liaison, tells us. “I speak with them, as well as our road patrol officers, on a daily basis. We still know what needs they are seeking.”

However, this homeless count was aimed as a way to survey the individual needs of the homeless and programs needed most in each area.

"So we can figure out what to do with the funding that we get. And are we getting enough funding for our community,” Brian Overby, a volunteer for The Point In Time Survey, explained.

More on the count in this report below:

Instead, volunteers and the North Port Police Department found abandoned camps with trash left behind. But officials say they know the homeless are not gone for good – they’ll be back.

“For us, at our own homes, we put a no-soliciting sign. We don’t want to be bothered in our home. The same might have gone for these homeless individuals who didn’t want to answer these questions or didn’t want to be bothered,” explained Officer Finnegan.

They assume that the homeless made their way to other counties until the count is over. Officer Finnegan has a list of at least 96 homeless that usually reside in North Port. The majority are dealing with addiction and do not want help, but she says she’ll keep trying.

“I can’t force anyone into these services. So whether it’s me going up to the same person 20 times and they are refusing 20 times in a row, maybe that 21st time I go up to them, they will finally say, ‘Yes, I would like to accept these services,’” Officer Finnegan said, “Then we can get them to the social services department here in North Port.”

North Port Police and The New Hope Church are going to continue going out this week to try to get the homeless counted in the city and answers to the survey.

Photos taken by North Port Sun.

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