By Velena Jones

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Hundreds of people are canvassing Sacramento County by foot in a two-day event to try to get an accurate count on just how bad the area’s homeless crisis is.

Typically, the survey happens every two years but was delayed last year due to COVID-19. The last count was in 2019, accounting for nearly 5,600 homeless. Officials expect that number to be much larger this time around.

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In groups of two to four, 700 volunteers like Hannah Carol are walking the streets to determine just how many people are living there

“It’s hard to see how many people are living like this,” explained volunteer Hannah Caroll.

It’s called the point-in-time count. Volunteers ask questions centered on demographics, what led to a person’s homelessness and if the pandemic contributed to them being unsheltered.

“It’s really important as we get an accurate account that really demonstrates the need,” explained Lisa Bates, CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward.

So why is this data valuable? Lisa Bates CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward is leading the count. Bates explained the information is used to receive federal and state funding.

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“This community received a little over $20 million from HUD and that in part is in response to what our need is. So, they look at our point-in-time count, they also look at data that we collect from providers that are providing services,” explained Bates.

Analysts from Sacramento State compile the data that will be used to evaluate how to better serve the community.

“There is a person behind each of those numbers and it’s a story and often there is a tragedy behind that story, and it’s important to hear that,” said Arturo Baiocchi, PIT Principal Investigator. “The point in time is just an approximation, it’s not perfect. We are definitely going to miss folks. It will be an undercount. But it’s also real information and based on actual interviews. We are going to visual verify and actual interview individual folks.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg explained he has mixed feelings, stressing action must follow.

“I firmly believe that we must legally obligate all levels of government to bring people indoors and get them the services they need,” he said. “I hope that the fact that the numbers are larger, the fact that people are suffering on the coldest nights of the winter compels us to take the next steps and that there is as much urgency and community support for bringing people indoors.”

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The data should be available by the end of spring. Thursday will conclude the two-day survey.