ST. LOUIS - The City of St. Louis conducted their annual census of homeless people living in the city limits on Wednesday.
The census is a requirement of the Housing and Urban Development for cities that receive federal money for homeless services. Eight teams of volunteers and city staff fanned out looking for the homeless in abandoned buildings, small encampments, shelters, highway overpasses and soup kitchens.
Bill Siedhoff, director of City of St. Louis' Human Services, says the effort is extensive and it's important every homeless person is counted.
In 2012, the census counted 1,506 homeless people, but in 2013 that number dropped to 1,423. Of that number, 138 were considered chronically homeless.
This year, a special emphasis was placed on finding service veterans and making sure that they are receiving all of the services that they are entitled to get.
"The idea today is if we identify a chronically homeless veteran the effort will be made to house that individual almost immediately," Siedhoff said.
One of the facilities visited was the Wednesday Ministries program at the Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ. The church provides a hot lunch, food pantry, and warm blankets.
Although not all clients are homeless, some vets were identified Wednesday at the church and offered help from the city.
St. Louis has a 10 year plan to end homelessness in the city. They are eight years into that plan.
When they first started, there were only 15 housing units available. Now there are over 300.
Siedhoff says that this makes it easier for the chronically homeless to have a place to live and thereby receive the services they need in order to stay there.