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Miami-Dade County Trying To Count Homeless Children

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By the end of January, all four South Florida counties will have conducted their yearly homeless counts as required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The numbers help local homeless initiatives figure out where to put their resources and if there have been any major shifts in the demographics of its homeless population.

One demographic that is regularly underrepresented in these counts is the number of homeless kids. But a pilot online survey just put into the field hopes to break away some of the mystery of who those kids are.

That challenge is in part the fact that these 13- to 24-year-olds often live “doubled up” -- with friends or extended family, on spare beds or couches -- because they have no other option.

These kids also fall in an odd donut hole for HUD definitions: The agency doesn’t consider people living with others to be homeless, even though many services do.

There was no official effort to get a sense of how many homeless kids there were in Dade. Until last year the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust teamed up with Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the Miami Coalition for the Homeless and set up registration sites.

The effort was part of a youth homeless census called the iCount. That did not bring out as many kids as the organizations were expecting, so this year, with a new online survey, the county may get its first decent numbers.

“We want to count them,” says Ron Book, president of the Homeless Trust, “We need to know where they are. We need to place resources where we can get kids off the streets and get them into… proper housing.”

The Trust is asking homeless kids or someone who knows a homeless kid to fill out the short, anonymous form and be counted. It asks  yes-or-no questions like “How many times have you had to move around in the last 12 months?” and “Have you traded sex or drugs for a place to live?” It also tries to identify any physical or mental disabilities that may cause homelessness.

Advertisements for the iCount have been placed on Metrorail cars as well as TV monitors at stations. Schools have also done some outreach to students regarding the count. The registry will be open through Wednesday.