Why Miami officials are counting the city’s homeless population Thursday night

Twice a year, the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust counts the number of people living on the street and in shelters so it can better understand the scope of Miami’s homeless problem.  

Most recent numbers show that more than 1,000 people are living on the streets in Miami-Dade County. Tonight the Trust is heading out into the city to lead a count that will update that number.

“We’ve got to know where they are and how many there are so we can address the problem,” said Ron Book, the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust’s longtime chairman. “If you don’t gauge where you are, how do you do anything?”

And why do these numbers help them better understand the problem?
The Trust gathers this data, called the “point in time” census, to share with the federal government for continued funding.

Who exactly is doing the counting?
The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, along with other officials, community volunteers, and police officers from Miami, Miami Beach and the county, will comb the streets to count the number of homeless folks on the street.

Are they also helping people on the street?
While volunteers and employees are out gathering this information they aren’t directing people to shelters or other resources but they offer information for the homeless and, in some cases, have scheduled appointments for those seeking help.

And how often do they do this?
Twice a year in January and in August, but tonight’s count is the one that counts for federal funding.

Are they going to cover ALL of Miami tonight?
Pretty much. The count happens in the city of Miami along with Miami Beach and some unincorporated parts of the county.

Why are they focused on downtown Miami?
As these clusters of men and women gather under bridges and interstate overpasses, near rivers and canals, and in the shadow of hotels and businesses, they often go unaccounted for in conversations about development.

What trend does the most recent data show?
Overall, the Trust’s numbers are way down from more than 6,000 people on the street and in shelters in the 90’s and 2000’s.

This time last year, there were more than 1,000 people living on the streets in Miami-Dade County, and more than 2,000 living in shelters. Compared to the previous year, the number on the streets is up by about 20 while the number of people in shelters is down by more than 500.

When will we know what the most up to date data says?
Numbers for Thursday’s count will likely be finalized by next Monday and the Trust will conduct another count in August to decide if they’re seeing any local trends. —(Only one count a year is required for federal funding).

How can I learn more?
We’ll be joining the Trust on its count Thursday night and you can find live updates from us on our Facebook and Instagram accounts.

This post has been updated.