To fix a problem like homelessness in America, you need to know its scope. To do that, you need sheriffs, social workers, volunteers, flashlights and 10 days in January.
They go into the streets in search of data. Peeking behind dumpsters, shining flashlights under bridges, rustling a frosted tent to see if anyone was inside. This is what it takes to count the people in America who don’t have a place to live. To get a number, however flawed, that describes the scope of a deeply entrenched problem and the country’s progress toward fixing it.