Okeechobee County’s homeless to be counted

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County Commission has declared Jan. 26 as “Point in Time County Day,” the day to count the homeless in Okeechobee County.

“I am a contact for the homeless in Okeechobee County,” said Daniel Silvestri, PATH Outreach Coordinator for Okeechobee Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness at the Jan. 25 Okeechobee County Commission meeting. Mr. Silvestri is with New Horizons of the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee.

He said he works with a program that targets mentally-ill homeless.

Okeechobee County Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs (right) presented Daniel Silvestri of New Horizons (left) with the Point in Time Proclamation at the Jan. 25 meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission in the Historic Okeechobee County Courthouse. Photo by Katrina Elsken.

Okeechobee County does not have a homeless shelter, he said. “None of the counties around us have a shelter,” he explained.

The count will be conducted with the help of volunteers from faith-based organizations.
“If you are aware of where you run into the homeless population, please let me know,” he said. “My most immediate need is to locate these homeless folks.”

Mr. Silvestri said his program provides the homeless with basic items such as pillows, blankets, flashlights and rain ponchos.

“For those who qualify, if they are legitimately disabled, I can help them apply for Social Security,” he said. If they have an income, it is easier to find housing for them, he explained.

“Housing is tight in this county, but it’s tight everywhere,” he said.

Most of the homeless do not want to live five miles out of town because they don’t have transportation, he added.

Mr. Silvestri said when possible, he refers the homeless to other services.

“Veterans, I can refer to the VA,” he said.

“I want to meet with all of these people anyway. We don’t know if they are mentally ill or not until we do a screening,” he said.

The Heartland Coalition for the Homeless, lead agency for the Continuum of Care, a program associated with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, conducts an unduplicated count on a single day of people located within the community who are experiencing homelessness.

This unduplicated count gives The Heartland Coalition for the Homeless a view of how they are performing, shows who is being served by the programs already in place, and reveals what adjustments need to be made to meet the unmet needs. The count also assists with the development of policy and planning decisions.

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