The Baltimore County Office of Community Conservation is hoping to mobilize 60 volunteers to do a headcount of the county's homeless.
The census is an annual undertaking. This year it will be conducted from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, the day that Harford County and Baltimore City also plan to count their homeless populations, said Sandy Monck, coordinator of homeless services.
Past estimates put the county's homeless population at about 2,000 people, half of whom are women and children, but officials know that even with the census and the large number of volunteers, not all will be counted.
"It's a snapshot of one point in time," Monck said.
The purpose of the census, she said, is to get an idea of the needs of the homeless people in the county and whether those needs are being met.
The results of the census - and the questionnaire that homeless people will be asked to fill out - will help the county better serve its homeless population, Monck said.
The county provides outreach, emergency shelters, transitional housing, help with permanent housing and services such as counseling for substance abuse and mental illness.
In the past, a team from Prologue Homeless Outreach, a nonprofit group, has conducted the counting, Monck said, and with far fewer people. She said she hopes the 60 volunteers will be able to reach a greater number of homeless.
The volunteers will given a two-hour training class this week, with tips on how to identify, approach and engage the homeless. They will be going to places such as libraries and churches, where, Monck said, her office is putting the word out that there will be free food and coffee that day.
Volunteers, working in teams of three, also will be hitting public places, such as malls, and wooded areas where the homeless are known to congregate. Monck said no volunteers would be made to do counts in wooded areas unless they choose to.