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Homeless Count Finds Slight Increase in Territory

Volunteers prepare for the biannual homeless count. (Photo Courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands)The number of chronically homeless people in the territory seems to have risen only slightly in the two years since the last census was conducted.

The worldwide economic crisis may be part of it, but the increased numbers also may be a reflection of better counting techniques, Michael Akin, director of Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands, said Saturday.

A few homeless men told Akin, who participated in Saturday’s biennial homeless count, they had lost jobs resulting in their losing their places to live. But Akin said some of those men had been homeless for years.

“These are the chronically homeless,” he said, “those living in buildings unfit for human habitation.”

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On St. Croix, volunteer Daisy Lafond, district manager of Catholic Charities, said one of the people she met in the day’s activity lived on the beach and didn’t seem to mind it.

“He told me,” ‘I’m fine; I don’t need anything,” Lafond said, adding, “I learned a lot.”

The nationwide count is always done in one day, the last Saturday of January.

About 45 volunteers territorywide participated in the count. Lafond said 10 people had come to training, but not all of them showed up on Saturday. She said most of the voluteers on St. Croix Saturday were associated with not-for-profit agencies that are part of the homeless support system, including Chris Finch, commissioner of Human Services Department.

The count in downtown Charlotte Amalie is easy, Akin said, because there are several locations where meals are served to the homeless, so volunteers just go to – for example – The Salvation Army, Frederick Lutheran Church or Bethlehem House, to count the population.

On St. John, where 32 homeless people were logged, volunteers canvassed Coral Bay and Cruz Bay.

On St. Croix, where 208 homeless men and women were counted by the end of Saturday, volunteers went to Christiansted, Frederiksted and mid-island to search for the homeless among us.

Akin said counters on St. Thomas were dispatched to 14 locations where preliminary reports indicate there were 168 homeless individuals.

Akin was confident that the count would be slightly higher by the time all the spreadsheets were collected.

Unlike the national count, Akin said people in homeless temporary shelters are also counted, though not included in the same survey.
Also, unlike the national effort, volunteers in the Virgin Islands count in the daytime.

On St. Thomas the 25 or so people who counted on Saturday started at 7 a.m. and quit around 4 p.m., Akin said.

Less than 20 percent of the homeless in the territory are women or children, according to Akin.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the count be conducted every two years to quantify the need for funding to the various support agencies.

Lafond said on St. Croix some of the homeless are found washing cars at various parking lots.

“They can’t find work,” she said.

The V.I. homeless count is the offspring of V.I. Continuum of Care, a conglomerate of private and government agencies that offer services to the territory’s homeless.

“The ultimate goal, “ Lafond said Sunday, “is to end homelessness in the Virgin Islands.”

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Volunteers prepare for the biannual homeless count. (Photo Courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands)The number of chronically homeless people in the territory seems to have risen only slightly in the two years since the last census was conducted.

The worldwide economic crisis may be part of it, but the increased numbers also may be a reflection of better counting techniques, Michael Akin, director of Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands, said Saturday.

A few homeless men told Akin, who participated in Saturday’s biennial homeless count, they had lost jobs resulting in their losing their places to live. But Akin said some of those men had been homeless for years.

“These are the chronically homeless,” he said, “those living in buildings unfit for human habitation.”

On St. Croix, volunteer Daisy Lafond, district manager of Catholic Charities, said one of the people she met in the day’s activity lived on the beach and didn’t seem to mind it.

“He told me,” ‘I’m fine; I don’t need anything,” Lafond said, adding, “I learned a lot.”

The nationwide count is always done in one day, the last Saturday of January.

About 45 volunteers territorywide participated in the count. Lafond said 10 people had come to training, but not all of them showed up on Saturday. She said most of the voluteers on St. Croix Saturday were associated with not-for-profit agencies that are part of the homeless support system, including Chris Finch, commissioner of Human Services Department.

The count in downtown Charlotte Amalie is easy, Akin said, because there are several locations where meals are served to the homeless, so volunteers just go to – for example – The Salvation Army, Frederick Lutheran Church or Bethlehem House, to count the population.

On St. John, where 32 homeless people were logged, volunteers canvassed Coral Bay and Cruz Bay.

On St. Croix, where 208 homeless men and women were counted by the end of Saturday, volunteers went to Christiansted, Frederiksted and mid-island to search for the homeless among us.

Akin said counters on St. Thomas were dispatched to 14 locations where preliminary reports indicate there were 168 homeless individuals.

Akin was confident that the count would be slightly higher by the time all the spreadsheets were collected.

Unlike the national count, Akin said people in homeless temporary shelters are also counted, though not included in the same survey.
Also, unlike the national effort, volunteers in the Virgin Islands count in the daytime.

On St. Thomas the 25 or so people who counted on Saturday started at 7 a.m. and quit around 4 p.m., Akin said.

Less than 20 percent of the homeless in the territory are women or children, according to Akin.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the count be conducted every two years to quantify the need for funding to the various support agencies.

Lafond said on St. Croix some of the homeless are found washing cars at various parking lots.

“They can’t find work,” she said.

The V.I. homeless count is the offspring of V.I. Continuum of Care, a conglomerate of private and government agencies that offer services to the territory's homeless.

“The ultimate goal, “ Lafond said Sunday, “is to end homelessness in the Virgin Islands.”