Counselors count the homeless in Martin County

Posted at 7:39 PM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-30 14:07:06-05

Right now, hundreds of people in Martin County are living on the streets and in the woods. An annual campaign to count the homeless is underway.

Deputies hit the streets of Martin County.

“The role of our deputies in this is basically to provide safety to everybody involved,” said Deputy Sheriff Buddy Sprott.

They assisted Health and Human Services counselors search the woods behind a Walmart. Determined to help the homeless out of the cold and into housing.

Karen lives in a tent with her husband. He's a veteran who works full time but they still can't afford a place to live. 

“Either one of you disabled?” asked Anita Cocoves, a mental health counselor “I am, yeah,” replied Karen. “Physical, mental health?” asked Cocoves. Karen replied, “chronic pain.”

In 12 years of counting the homeless, counselors have found the numbers go down. But the need for permanent housing is going up because rents are higher.

“We're seeing more couples and families in the woods,” explained Cocoves. “Whereas, in the past we saw a lot of single individuals mostly males. Now we’re seeing females out there.”

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder is working on a program to treat the mentally ill who've been arrested. They'd be placed in a separate facility from the jail. 

“We want them in a treatment facility, where we can help them with their mental illness and stop the recidivism rate,” explained Sheriff Snyder. “One of the biggest problems i have is the constant repeat offenders.”

Sheriff Snyder hopes to have the program up and running next year. 

We met Paul on his way into the woods. He receives $700 dollars a month for disability but that's not enough.

“Do you have any disabilities?” asked Cocoves. “Yeah, i'm disabled,” Paul replied. “And is it a physical disability?” Cocoves asked. “Mental,” he replied.

Case workers say there were a little over 500 homeless people in Martin County last year, and about 550 in 2014.