CHICAGO (CBS) — More than 200 volunteers and city employees fanned out overnight, counting the city’s homeless, but it was not driven by the cold snap.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandates that the count be done once every two years during the last 10 days of January.

Chicago Department of Family and Support Services spokesman Matt Smith said it was far easier on a night so cold to make such a count, because most homeless individuals want to be in shelters. But he said the count serves a more important and longer-lasting purpose: it will establish the amount of people who need to be served, and where they can be found, which Smith said are both important factors in determining levels of federal aid, as well as placement of services in city neighborhoods.

The department’s chief planning officer, Adriana Camarda, said anyone encountered outside was offered a cap and gloves, and the chance to seek shelter at a hospital or police station.

Camarda said the cap and gloves also served a second purpose: to show the city employees and volunteers who are taking the count if someone had already been counted.

She said a special effort was made, in cooperation with the magazine Streetwise, to recruit homeless Chicagoans to assist with the count, because they were more likely to know where the homeless stay when out on the streets. Each homeless person taking part was offered a $25 stipend.

The last count, in 2011, showed 6,598 homeless Chicagoans, 4,873 of whom were in shelters. In 2009, the number was approximately 6,240 with 5,356 in shelters.

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