The destruction of Ian cost many people their homes or jobs in Southwest Florida, and it exacerbated an already massive affordable housing crisis.

Social workers are working all over Southwest Florida completing what’s called a homeless count, which means counting the number of homeless people.

The homeless settled in the Park of Lions. CREDIT: WINK News

The first goal is to estimate the number of homeless people in Southwest Florida, which is problematic because that number is constantly changing.

Walking around Lviv Park, you’ll see playground equipment, vending machines filled with items, black garbage bags full of clothes, and people relaxing on benches.

“My life is so crazy, you couldn’t write a book about it,” WINK News’ homeless man Josh Uschelette told the park.

“I have to smile… Pardon my language, but I have to smile about this shit,” Uchelet said.

“I go to the labor pool and make my sixty bucks a day,” said Uschelet.

Ask anyone and you’ll find that $60 a day won’t get you very far. On Tuesday, Uschelet marked the 22nd year in a row in the annual Pitt Count.

“From the age of 15, I went from a football to a basketball scholarship … Somehow to this,” Uschelet said.

But not all visitors to Lions Park are regulars.

Sitting in the park. CREDIT: WINK News

“There are a lot of new guys, and me [sic] because they sleep on my seats, said Uchelet.

“We’re seeing a lot more development, which means people who may have lived in a wooded area are now being pushed out onto the streets and becoming more visible. Obviously with Hurricane Ian coming through recently, it’s not only going to affect people who are already homeless, but we also know there are people who have lost their homes as a result of the hurricane. And then we also have a massive affordable housing crisis,” said Thomas Felke, a professor of social work at FGCU.

Felke coordinates groups of students who must go out and do the counting. During the count, they also interview people asking why they are homeless.

“I wasn’t homeless during the hurricane. After the hurricane, all of this… This is the result of that,” Kasia McCoy said.

McCoy told WINK News that her apartment was damaged beyond repair.

WINK News asked McCoy where she slept at night.

“The back of churches. Sometimes the steps of churches,” McCoy said.

McCoy then explained what a night meant to her.

“When you’re not trying to stay warm, you’re trying to stay safe. And safe is best,” McCoy said.

Professor Felke believes his students will understand that many say they are homeless because of the hurricane.

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