By J.D. Miles

COLLIN COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – A search in Collin County has led to a disturbing find. Social workers took to the streets Thursday night in an effort to get an accurate count of the area’s homeless population. What they discovered was not only a varied homeless population, but a growing one.

Volunteers canvassed Collin County neighborhoods searching for people like a 44-year-old woman named Debbie.

“Lost my job. Lost my apartment. I lost my car and so I’m just trying to find my way back basically,” explained the woman, who didn’t want her last name used.

Debbie was staying at a West Plano hotel. The location is where the homeless mother and her son have called home for more than two years.

Information gathered during the Collin County homeless count won’t be tallied and released until April, but the numbers are expected to be a higher than last year.

“I think people don’t understand that because we are a wealthy county and there are McMansions on every corner… but it’s [homelessness] a serious problem,” explained Lynn Sipiora, the director of the Samaritan Inn Homeless Shelter.

The Samaritan Inn is located in McKinney and is the only homeless shelter in Collin County.

Jimmy Moore lives there with his children.

“We had some personal stuff, which brought me here,” said the father of three, who explained how he couldn’t have made it without the shelter. “I struggled for three or four months to pay my bills and then heard about this place.”

Each week, the front desk at Samaritan Inn turns away between 30 and 50 families, simply because they don’t have the room.

Jimmy Moore and the 160 others at the shelter are considered “situational homeless” — which means they’re unemployed and have no savings. That description fits a lot of people including homeless mother Amber Star-Howard.

“When I got here I was really beaten down and didn’t have a whole lot of hope,” she said.

Samaritan Inn sits alone because other efforts to build a bigger shelter elsewhere have failed. Neighbors don’t want it ‘in their backyard.’

With an estimated 350 homeless in Collin County, about half are believed to be living in cars or extended-stay motels.

As long as Jimmy, Amber and others living at Samaritan Inn keep looking for work and follow the rules their families receive free meals and can sleep in one of the shelter’s few coveted beds.

Amber said, “Right now they are my security blanket. They brought me in from the cold.”

Samaritan Inn operates on donations from the United Way and faith-based organizations.

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