Scores of volunteers were set to hit the streets to count the county’s homeless population, a number that’s been on the rise.

From 2007 to 2011, the number of Monterey County’s homeless grew from about 2,400 to 2,500. That growth can be attributed to the recession, says Tom Melville, executive officer for the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers. 

This year’s homeless census, scheduled for Jan. 23 with results due in April, could reveal whether the economy’s modest improvement has helped.

The biannual effort, known as a “point-in-time count,” covers every census tract in the county. The counts are performed across the country in January for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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Volunteers are accompanied by homeless guides, who are familiar with the places the homeless gather. Volunteers can only count people on the street or signed up in shelters, and not those living in temporary settings like motels.

Monterey and San Benito counties have been implementing a 10-year plan to end homelessness, which in part focuses on preventative measures like rent subsidies.

It costs four to six times more to help someone who has been homeless on a long-term basis than to prevent homelessness by subsidizing rent or providing resources for housing, Melville says.

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