Counting the homeless in Bay County

Published: Jan. 27, 2018 at 3:20 PM CST
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Last year, Doorways of Northwest Florida counted more than 330 homeless people in Bay County.

Volunteers have been out this week surveying people who don't have a place to call home.

The group hopes to help get the homeless population back on its feet.

"I slept in a port-a-pot. I took plastic from an appliance company here in town and covered the port-a-pot. Not that it was all that bad. I slept in there, it was cold that night," said Debra Peardon.

Peardon is homeless. She told us she looks forward to the community breakfast at First United Methodist Church in Panama City every Saturday.

"People giving back to the community and stuff and trying to help us pull up from the ground up. When you're on the ground there's no way but up," said Peardon.

"People don't realize how close an average person might be towards homelessness," said Yvonne Petrasovits, Executive Director of Doorways NWFL.

Doorways of NWFL is conducting its annual "Point in Time" housing survey in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington counties.

They surveyed in Panama City Friday.

Officials said they use a mobile app when they're out surveying the homeless. They said it helps them keep detailed information of each person and see if they qualify for Doorways of NWFL's services.

"Our teams are going to actually go out in to the streets and we're going to drive-by different areas where maybe the homeless population might frequent. Also areas that look like homeless might not frequent just so we can get a good count and see where we are," said Petrasovits.

Doorways of NWFL officials told us they case-manage their homeless clients and help them pay for a place to live along with helping them manage their money.

"We're not hopeless. We have potential," said Michael Stafford, a member of the homeless community.

Survey officials said they will have the number estimate of the homeless population in Northwest Florida by the end of March.

Pancare employees were at the community breakfast providing free checkups to homeless people who visited.