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Counting Maine's homeless population

by Jana Barnello

PORTLAND (WGME) -- Groups of volunteers are tracking down Maine's homeless population, hoping to better assess the problem throughout the state.

The annual "Point-In-Time" homeless count was held Wednesday night across the country, including Portland.

Groups of homeless advocates and volunteers went into known homeless camps to count how many people were out on the streets. They'll take those number and combine them with known homeless people living in shelters, and submit the data to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A report released in November 2013 states that Maine's homeless population increased 26 percent from 2012 to 2013.

Oxford Street Homeless Shelter Assistant Director Rob Parritt doesn't expect the numbers to get any better this year.

"Our economy is not the best. There's also a real lack of affordable housing in our community," said Parritt. "There's also the fact that other shelters across the state are really, really struggling."

Homeless count crews offered help to the people they found living outside Wednesday night. If they still didn't want to come to a shelter they were given water, food, and blankets.