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Pandemic forcing more people into homelessness, panhandling

The pandemic is forcing more people out of their homes and onto the streets, causing a rise in the number of panhandlers in Lee County and elsewhere.

The St. Matthew’s House says it’s seeing more requests for services and more homeless people out on the streets. The biggest thing the community can do for those in need is to transition them back into society.

Commissioner Brian Hamman says the sheriff’s office and county human services have formed what they call “hot teams.” Their goal is to interact with the homeless and connect them with the services that could give them help. Hamman also says he reached out to the Salvation Army to see what help it could offer.

But the problem extends far outside of Lee County.

“We deal with a lot of different organizations where we compare notes and what is happening, and around the country, homelessness is really trending up,” said Vann Ellison, president of St. Matthew’s House. “We’re doing everything we can to get the resources, to stabilize people, to keep them in the homes they’re in and also working to transition people back into the mainstream, getting them jobs, getting them employed, moving them back in.”

The St. Matthew’s House stressed that if you see someone panhandling, a little money will not go a long way for them. Encourage them to go to a shelter instead.

Reporter:Nicole Lauren
Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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