A large crowd gathered at McKenzie Park in downtown Panama City Thursday night for a hot meal on a cold night. The Homeless and Hunger Coalition of Northwest Florida provided the food as part of their "Point in Time" count, a yearly effort to gauge how many unsheltered homeless there are in Bay and five other Panhandle counties.
"If they were in a place not meant for human habitation- the streets, camps, cars, then we're able to count them," said Homeless Coalition Project Administrator Morgan Burleson.
While they were in the park Thursday, coalition officials also had them fill out a detailed form that asked them everything from their name and age to how long they've been on the streets.
"What we're trying to do is determine what happened for them to become homeless, and then using that data to help determine what services we need to bring to Bay County and the surrounding counties to help with that, to help prevent homelessness," Burleson added.
But what about those who choose the lifestyle? Vagrants are the biggest problem in Bay County. And although the coalition admits the survey won't solve vagrancy, they said it does help the homeless who want help to get back on their feet.
Coalition officials plan to continue their count Saturday at the Panama City Rescue Mission.