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At midnight on Tuesday — while many wrote papers and studied for tests — two Penn students were among the 40 volunteers who went into Philadelphia to count the homeless.

The effort was part of the annual Point In Time Count, required by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to assess national levels of homelessness. Many big cities across the country participated in the count last week.

The count in Philadelphia — which began at midnight and lasted three hours — was hosted by Project Housing, Opportunities for Employment and Medical Care and Education, a nonprofit agency that provides services to homeless and formerly homeless individuals.

College junior Ellie Dugan and College sophomore Caitlin Dougherty volunteered alongside outreach workers, students and staff from homeless agencies in the region.

Participants surveyed every corner of Center City, from South Street to Spring Garden and from the Delaware to Schuylkill rivers, according to Beth Lewis, program director of the Outreach Coordination Center at Project HOME.

They also ventured underground to survey suburban stations and SEPTA concourses.

Parts of North, South and West Philadelphia known to have high densities of homeless people were also included in the count, as were the terminals of Philadelphia International Airport and homeless shelters, Lewis added.

Results of the census were given to city officials to allow Philadelphia to apply for federal grants to combat homelessness.

According to Lewis, Philadelphia conducts this count four times every year. However, the numbers do not change drastically from year to year.

Although the results of Tuesday’s count have not yet been publicly released, Lewis anticipates the main difference will be a greater proportion of homeless people living in shelters during the winter months.

The count last November revealed that there were 3,455 homeless people in Philadelphia. This included 1,971 single individuals, 425 of whom were unsheltered.

Dugan and Dougherty participated in the count in the Kensington area of North Philadelphia.

“We looked for people who were walking around aimlessly, sitting on a stoop or sleeping under a bridge,” said Dugan, who became involved in the count through her internship at Project HOME.

Dugan added that she had been in Kensington before, but never this late at night.

“It’s only 10 to 15 minutes away from our campus, but it’s a completely different environment. To see what a different part of the city looks like at a different time was really interesting,” she said.

Dougherty explained that she participated in the homeless count because she is interested in urban poverty and education.

“It’s surprising how well [homelessness] is hidden,” she said. “We were passing bridges and tunnels where you wouldn’t think twice, but there is a tiny tent crawling under the I-95.”

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