Calling Attention to What's Often Described as a Hidden Need in Collin County

In Collin County, there's a new effort to raise awareness of the homeless population.

Ann Harris and Christine Ortega are hosting a symposium Thursday morning in Frisco to launch 'Step Up Frisco,' an advocacy group to connect local homeless shelters to resources.

In the most recent numbers available, a one night census last January counted 427 homeless people who were on the street, in shelters or in transitional housing in Collin County. During the same count, volunteers counted two homeless people inside the Frisco city limits.

Ortega said the numbers are often under-reported and believes there is a need to better support local shelters.

"We have to look at where we're going to be in the future," said Ortega. "We're going to be a metropolitan area and we have a lot of people moving in here."

Ortega, also the Vice Chairman of the Collin County Homeless Coalition, said Step Up Frisco’s goal is to prevent chronic homelessness.

"We want to direct people to understand the large picture of what homelessness is and the best way to serve and provide so we can get ahead of the curve," Ortega said.

Other non-profits in Collin County said the need is often hidden.

"A lot of people may look at what they see in the media, which is lots of business development going on and companies to the area but life happens in everyone's situation," said Nicole Bursey, Executive Director of Frisco Family Services.

The non-profit runs a food pantry, where clients can pick up groceries five days a week. Bursey said the pantry has helped 25 percent more people since the start of its fiscal year in July.

"Because of the increased cost of living in our community, be it housing or food, if you had a little bit put away it doesn't go very far now," said Bursey.

A census of the homeless population in Dallas County last year showed at least 3,700 people were homeless the night of the count. A 2018 Dallas and Collin County Point in Time Homeless Count provides a breakdown by city and county.

Bursey points out the need often looks different in different communities.

"We may not necessarily have someone holding up a sign saying that they'll work for food, but you can go into homes and communities and open up the refrigerator and it's empty."

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