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Volunteers Count D.C.'s Homeless

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Amanda Harris of Pathways Washington D.C. and a volunteer help with this year's homeless count.
Jessica Gould
Amanda Harris of Pathways Washington D.C. and a volunteer help with this year's homeless count.

Housing advocates in the District say the city has made strides in the fight against homelessness, but they say a tough economy could undo some of the progress. So they're conducting a count to learn more about DC's homeless population.

Joel Mayo has been homeless for six months, since he lost his job as a janitor. He says the worst part of being homeless is waking up: "Thinking I'm in a bed, realizing I'm on the ground."

"Ain't no jobs. I advise anybody got a job, keep it," he says.

Amanda Harris is with the nonprofit Pathways to Housing, D.C. She says the city has worked hard to reduce homelessness. She says there has been a lot of effort to get people into apartments. But she's worried unemployment and a strain on city funds may reverse some of the gains, so she's joining an effort to find out just how many homeless people are living in D.C.

"Around buildings. In alleys. On park benches," she says.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development uses data collected from the annual count to determine the scope of homelessness and allocate funds. Volunteers counted 6,546 homeless individuals living in D.C. last year, and new numbers will be available in a few months.

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