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Walsh leads city’s annual census of the homeless

A homeless woman took shelter on a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue in Boston in 2016.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

The City of Boston conducted its annual census of people living and sleeping on the streets, in shelters, and in transitional housing overnight Wednesday amid new safety regulations due to the pandemic, city officials said.

Typically, the homeless census is mandated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the $31 million grant it sends to Boston for housing and services for the homeless, a statement from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office said.

This year, the federal government lifted the mandate because of the pandemic, but Boston went ahead with it anyway. To enforce social distancing, organizers decreased the number of volunteers participating in the census and scrapped the usual kickoff event at City Hall.


Walsh called the census a key part of the city’s efforts to end homelessness.

“Every year, our homeless census guides our work to dedicate programs and resources to support individuals who face homelessness, and it plays a vital role in our larger goal to prevent and end homelessness in the City of Boston,” Walsh said. “The homeless census also serves as an important reminder of our shared commitment to helping our most vulnerable residents. In Boston, we know everyone should be cared for and respected, and deserves a place to call home.”

Results of this year’s census will be available in the coming months, the city said.

Walsh led roughly 80 volunteers who conducted this year’s census, canvassing 45 areas of the city after midnight, according to the city’s statement.

The previous census found that homelessness among individuals had decreased 0.2 percent, while homelessness among families had increased 7.9 percent.

The information gathered in the census is shared with providers of homeless services to assist in Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care program.

Boston in the last census had the lowest number of residents sleeping on the streets of any major city, according to the city’s statement. Under 2 percent of the city’s homeless population was sleeping on the street in 2019, it said.



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