Hundreds of volunteers are counting the homeless population in several California counties this week, including Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Yolo.
Wednesday night, 400 trained volunteers fanned out, in more than 70 groups escorted by law enforcement, to mapped areas of Sacramento County looking for homeless people to count and survey.
In exchange for providing survey input, the homeless people receive restaurant gift cards.
The count, conducted every two years, is required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in counties wishing to receive federal funding to combat homelessness.
In Yolo County, the homeless count is a week-long effort. As one of the coordinators of that event pointed out, the findings are also helpful to local homeless service providers.
"Understanding how many homeless we have, what their ages are, what their needs are, is kind of a first step for us in figuring out what services we need to be able to provide to them, " said Tracey Dickinson, an analyst with the Yolo County Administrator's Office.
Two service organizations, Sacramento Steps Forward and HandsOn Superior California, helped coordinate Sacramento County's count.