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Counting the homeless in metro Phoenix could change their lives

PHOENIX — Volunteers walked the streets of Avondale, Mesa and everywhere in between Tuesday to get a better count of the homeless in the Valley.

Last year the volunteers tallied 1,053 homeless people, a 33 percent drop from 2013.

Brande Mead with Maricopa Association of Governments said the hopes were for an even bigger drop this year.

“The information will be reported to (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) and is used to apply for federal funding,” Mead said.

“That funding is used to provide needed services across the region as well as permanent housing.”

Mead said the organization has been counting the homeless since 2002. Some people have been on the streets for days, she said, others for 20 years.

“Usually when we come across someone, they’re willing to take the survey. We explain what we’re doing and haven’t had any safety concerns.

The volunteers check alleys, encampment areas, “any outdoor location where someone may be bedded down for the night,” Mead said.

Volunteer teams include city, county and state agencies along with faith and community-based organizations, businesses and private citizens.

The head count was scheduled to end at noon.