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Volunteers set to count Metro Vancouver homeless Wednesday

About 900 volunteers will fan out across Metro Vancouver Wednesday to conduct a 24-hour regional homeless count performed once every three years.

It provides a snapshot of people who are homeless – both on the street and in shelters or other temporary accommodation.

"Information gathered through the homeless count surveys help to identify service needs and gives us a clearer picture about the number of people who are homeless and their use of existing services, from shelters through to hospitals," said Deb Bryant, chair of the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness.

She said the count is always an under estimate of the actual number of homeless, but provides valuable insight.

Preliminary results will be released in late April, with a final report out in July.

Volunteers in 2011 counted 2,623 homeless in Metro – down slightly from 2008 – but many more were found in shelters rather than on the street.

The improvement reflected the addition of new shelters in some cities ahead of the 2010 Olympics, and a major investment by the province in new supportive housing units, often by redeveloping old hotels.

It's hoped more housing projects completed in the past three years yield further gains.

The largest numbers of homeless as of 2011 were in Vancouver (1,605) and Surrey (388), followed by New Westminster (124), the North Shore (117), Maple Ridge (102) and Langley (60).

Details of past counts are available at stophomelessness.ca.

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