JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — As another night of cold temperatures sets in – thousands of Floridians will be living in the elements.
Getting resources to those without homes can be difficult. That is why volunteers have fanned out across First Coast counties to understand the homeless population.
With temperatures almost cold enough to ice, only a few vehicles were on the road at 6 a.m. Wednesday – one of them carrying a group of homeless from a shelter to a Jacksonville Beach restaurant.
Students from Florida State College at Jacksonville are helping to gather data, like who these folks are, where they’re from and what led to their circumstances.
Chandler White relates on a personal level. The 21-year-old said for some time there was nowhere for him to call home.
“I think that me being homeless was, especially when it comes to interviewing and going out and talking to people -- I get what’s going through their heads that they’re worried about trying to find a place to stay for the night,” White said.
Especially when conditions outside deteriorate.
At least two homeless veterans, a family of three and more than a dozen other men and women were interviewed by volunteers in the area. Estimates from 2018 show roughly 1,500 homeless in Duval County.
Political Science professor Daniel Cronrath said the results of this effort impact everyone – how tax dollars are spent, how legislation is crafted and how help is given.
“There is no one story to homelessness," Cronrath said, "People come out here for a variety of reasons, whether they’re down on their luck, some suffer from addiction, some suffer with mental illness, but part of it is getting to understand them better to recognize their needs and see them as human beings and try to find the best ways to help them."
For White, it’s also about making a connection.
“It takes just one person to make a difference and that’s how it was with me," White said. "It was just one person and I’m forever grateful.”