Impassioned volunteers scoured metropolitan Washington, D.C. during the week of Jan. 24 in an attempt to count the city’s homeless.

Government officials and homeless service leaders joined in on the count to collect needed data on homeless and itinerant subpopulations, including the disabled, mentally ill and veterans.

“As the region and the nation continues attempts to emerge from economic malaise and a foreclosure crisis, this year’s count will inform planners on how these factors may have affected the number of homeless persons in metropolitan Washington,” said Michael Ferrell, executive director of the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless.

The volunteers included officials from U.S. Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Volunteers approached homeless individuals inside emergency shelters, vacant lots, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing and surveyed their conditions, including cause of homelessness and source of income.

Alicia Lewis, a housing planner with the Council of Governments, documented her experience searching Prince George’s County, Md. for unsheltered homeless persons inside fast food shops, liquor stores and wooded areas during frigid weather conditions.

“While many folks around the region were stuck in traffic on their way home due to the weather, the homeless men we’d met had to walk miles in the cold, carrying multiple bags in the storm to reach their destination in hopes of having a warm bed for just one evening,” she wrote on the organization’s blog. “I truly hope the county’s sheltered count is greater than its unsheltered count.”

Data collected from the 11th annual count, known as an enumeration, will be released this spring. During last year’s tally, 11,774 homeless residents were counted, a slight decrease from the previous year. HUD officials say the jurisdiction’s homeless population has been dwindling since 2006. Prior to the initiative, officials did not have a definitive way of counting homeless persons living in the region.

Similar enumerations are conducted throughout the country in an attempt to document trends in homelessness and allocate funds for the neediest regions. Baltimore County held a homeless ?“census” Jan. 20, while Baltimore City performed a count Jan. 25.