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Volunteers Begin 24-Hour Homeless Count

Volunteers with the Central Arkansas Team Care for the Homeless (CATCH) are counting the homeless population in Central Arkansas.<br mce_bogus="1">
As part of a national effort, volunteers are visiting shelters and homeless camps in Central Arkansas as part of the Point-In -Time Count to get a better idea of how many  people are homeless and why.

Armed with surveys and smiles,  UALR students are trying to uncover the true face of homelessness.

UALR graduate student Jonathan Howland said,  "The goal of this is really to give a voice to people without a home and there are people who have a story that's not been told before."

People like Jerome Washington, a former pimp and recovering drug addict looking for a job with the sanitation department. Washington sees his time in the shelter as a crucial phase in his transition from prison to the real world.

Washington said, "I know it's just baby steps, to have a little dog and a picket fence and a beautiful wife and me doing the right thing, I see all that in my future."

While he's at the beginning of his time at the Compassion Center,  mother of  four, Hannah Magee is celebrating, she is on her way out. She and her kids stayed for 2 and a half months after she got out of rehab.

Former shelter resident Hannah Magee said," I needed somewhere in between. I had no where else to go, I had graduated and come so far but that was just the beginning, "

Homeless service coordinators say the amount of resources and federal dollars they have to help people like Washington and Magee are based on the size of the population.

While it's easier to count people living in shelters, it's a different story on the streets, where many homeless people live in isolation.

Red, who is currently homeless, said,  "Living on these streets is not easy, I don't like living out here."

We met "Red' outside of the tent he shares with his girlfriend and their pets, in a wooded area in Little Rock.

If we weren't led  there, we may have never known this area or Red existed. Coordinators say, that's the problem, it's imperative they know just how many people are homeless or else they may remain helpless.

The 2009 count showed about 1400 homeless people in Central Arkansas and organizers say they anticipate a much larger amount this year. They'll finish the count Wednesday around 6pm.
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