NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford's annual Point-In-Time Count begins this week, and volunteers are needed. The program utilizes volunteers to gather an annual update on important statistics relating to the city's homeless population in order to identify what kind of funding is needed to assist those living on the streets and in shelters.

Reverend David Lima, chairman of the Homeless Service Providers Network, says volunteers will go through training so they can appropriately interact with the people they are counting.

"We've had some folks in the past that just get excited and want to do everything for everybody," said Rev. Lima. "And we've had some folks that get a little judgmental. And ironically, we've had some folks that have come and it opened up their eyes."

Rev. Lima adds that many people are quick to judge, and the Point-In-Time Count helps to put people's hardships into perspective.

"Maybe there was a bad choice once. But once that choice gets made — if that was the case — then the negativity and the problems that surmount is just overwhelming. And so we've got to be able to help somebody get back. Otherwise, we're just letting people get thrown away, and that's not our society."

Last year, the Point-In-Time Count identified 398 adults and children who were living in shelters or on the street.

Jennifer Clarke, deputy director of the City's Department of Planning, Housing, and Community Development, says volunteers will be armed with surveys that will extract useful information from the count.

"It helps us to get a sense of what are the leading reasons that are bringing people to making choices about being on the street," said Clarke. "And we know in our area it has historically been mental illness and substance abuse. Those have been the two key indicators. But we have domestic violence. We have multiple other issues."

“The City’s Point-in-Time Count ensures that individuals and families experiencing homelessness are counted in a respectful and compassionate manner each year. This census-taking event collects important data that informs our strategic efforts, and raises awareness about the issue of homelessness in our community,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell.

Volunteers are needed to canvas homeless shelters and known homeless camps in order to count the homeless population and inform them of resources that can help improve their situations. The data from the count helps the City receive and allocate funding for homeless services.

The Point-In-Time count begins at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, and lasts 24 hours. For more information about the count, please contact Jennifer Clarke at (508) 979-1500 or at Jennifer.Clarke@newbedford-ma.gov; for more information about the approach being taken by the city’s HSPN in addressing homelessness, please go to www.nbhspn.com.