The Washington Post

Volunteers fan out to count the homeless in D.C.

More than 100 volunteers fanned out across the Washington region to conduct an annual census of how many people are sleeping on the streets.

The effort Wednesday night was part of an annual snapshot of the homeless population, an effort that takes place during the third week of January, which is usually the coldest time of the year. About 3,000 cities conduct similar counts -- though some only do a count every two years — in an effort to send accurate data to the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, which then distributes funds to local agencies.

HUD is awarding a record $1.6 billion this year, in its federal effort to help eradicate homelessness among veterans, youth, and families by 2020.

On Thursday morning, social service agencies throughout the District were still tallying their numbers. Volunteers were up past midnight, tip-toeing into alleyways, scaling church steps and milling about the city’s darkest corners in hopes of finding those without shelter.

In 2011, a similar count discovered 305 people out on the streets, a 12 percent decrease from the previous year. There were an additional 6,241 homeless people inside the city’s shelters.

Robert Samuels is a national political reporter who focuses on the intersection of politics, policy and people. He previously covered social issues in the District of Columbia.


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