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The homeless population in Alachua County has grown more than 38 percent since last year and more than 53 percent in the past five years, according to a point-in-time count conducted last week, with advocates blaming the “atrocious” economy for the swelling numbers.
The count, held on Jan. 26 and 27, found 1,783 homeless in the county, up from 1,284 last year, the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry announced Tuesday. In 2006, the count was 1,163.
In the North Central Florida region — including Alachua, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Putnam counties — surveyors counted a total of 2,690 homeless people, up from 2,262 last year.
Max Tipping, executive director of the coalition, which will release a detailed report on the findings in May, said it was encouraging that more of the county’s population was able to find housing, if temporary, through local programs.
Last year, the count found that 378, or 29.4 percent of the county’s homeless, were in a housing program. This year, 544, or 30.5 percent, were in housing.
There was a drop, at least percentage-wise, in the number of people living on the streets or in tents and vehicles — from 43.1 percent in 2010 to 37.7 percent this year.