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Surveyors set out to count all homeless persons in Minnesota

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Hundreds of volunteers and non-profit workers across the state have been working through the night to count every homeless person in Minnesota. They began at sunset yesterday visiting light-rail cars, bus shelters, and highway underpasses. Later today, more groups will go to food pantries, homeless camps, and shelters.

It's part of an annual effort mandated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development called the Point in Time Count. Cathy ten Broeke, Minnesota State Director to Prevent and End Homelessness, says surveyors go to great lengths to find people.  

"I'm hearing of volunteers literally on snow mobiles going from ice house to ice house up in Greater Minnesota, trying to see if anyone's sleeping in ice houses . . . or in the suburbs people searching in shopping center parking lots looking for families with children," ten Broeke said. 

Doing this survey is one of the ways local and national agencies decide how to allocate the roughly $30 million Minnesota receives in federal funding each year to combat homelessness. It's also a key metric for determining just how successful those efforts have been. Ten Broeke says a drop in veteran homelessness has been a huge victory. 

"Here in Minnesota, we've seen veteran homelessness cut in more than half--by 57 percent since 2010--and we're on the verge of ending veteran homelessness in many parts of the state," Ten Broeke said.  

Last year, about 7,000 homeless people were counted in Minnesota during the Point in Time. About two-thirds were in the Twin Cities metro area and another third in Greater Minnesota. That's a decrease from the previous two years, but not close to meeting the federal and state goals of eliminating chronic homelessness by the end of this year. 

The results of this year's survey will be released in April and submitted to congress.