For Many Areas, Count Of Homeless Population Is Canceled, Or Delayed

Every January, in the middle of the night, thousands of volunteers and outreach workers spread out across the country to count the nation’s homeless population. They search highway underpasses, wooded areas, abandoned buildings and sidewalks to locate those who are living outside. But this year, because of the pandemic, the annual street count has been canceled or modified in hundreds of communities, even as the nation’s unsheltered population appears to be growing.

“Foregoing the count means that we’re going to miss a pretty crucial data point,” said Dennis Culhane of the University of Pennsylvania, who has helped the government gather and analyze information about homelessness for years. “Particularly in light of COVID, there’s been widespread reports that there’s an increase in unsheltered homelessness around the country.”

Culhane said such information is important, especially when it comes to getting money from Congress for homeless assistance programs.