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Trying to get a better handle on the local homeless population

About 150 volunteers spread out across the Rochester area Thursday night and during the day on Friday, looking for homeless people in what is called "Project Homeless Count."

Trillium Health is one of the organizations involved, and its housing specialist, Javier Elias, says there are a number of homeless people in the region who have slipped through cracks in the system for various reasons. 

“They’re not being counted for various reasons, one is that they probably think that they cannot access the services that are out there because they think they may have outstanding warrants, they have mental illness, and some people just don’t want to be part of the grid, so to speak,” Elias told WXXI News.

Elias says the volunteers are trying to find homeless people who may not even know they can take advantage of certain services.

“Our purpose is to try to interact and try to lure them into the services and slowly see what they can gain from it and then hopefully, the eventual goal is for them to be housed in safe and affordable housing.”

Elias says the hope is that a better count will help this region get more federal funding to find housing solutions for the homeless. He says the volunteers were looking to count homeless people on the streets not only in the city, but also in the suburbs, where he says there are also people without a place to live, sometimes sleeping in cars, or behind buildings.

Officials say that on any given night in Monroe County, there are more than 800 people who experience homelessness. That includes more than 200 children and over 150 people who have a serious mental health illness.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.