By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — No one should be living in the streets on cold nights like this, but thousands do. And some are working to cut that number by starting with an accurate count.

On one of the coldest nights of the year, many who call the streets home are looking for a warm place to rest.

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Emma Podobinksi is one of many social workers who are part of a point-in-time survey. It’s done in every city in the county, to get a count of how many people are homeless.

“There are not enough shelter beds so they are out anywhere they can be in a safe place,” Podobinski said.

Bridgette Gil explained that a point-in-time survey is mandated by HUD, the department Housing and Urban Development, on an annual basis.

The numbers from the count help decide the amount of government funding is needed to change lives.

Dale Bennett is an army veteran who has bounced between the streets and shelters for years.

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“Right now it’s very dangerous,” Dale Bennett said. “Behind Broadway Pizza, I have a tent.”

When the temperatures dip below zero, Bennett knows he has a bed at the Simpson House. But the shelter, like all shelters in Hennepin County, is at capacity. Most of the people standing inside the Salvation Army’s Chapel would usually be standing or sleeping outside, but when it’s cold, exceptions have to be made.

“I was part of the team that was out all over Hennepin County, and there were a lot of people on the trains,” Podobinski said.

Outreach workers were out looking behind buildings, looking at bus stops, and even on city streets they were looking for people who take everything they have to use as shelter to protect them from the brutal cold.

“A hot meal and a hot shower on a freezing day like today is very important,” Bennett said.

The count helps outreach workers identify who needs housing and other resources, but on a night like this it’s just as important to make sure they have somewhere to stay warm.

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More than 7,200 Minnesotans were homeless last year, including 300 veterans. Organizations like the VA, MAC-V and Simpson Housing work together to identify who need help.

Reg Chapman