Those who assist the homeless in Anchorage say they’re getting a much clearer picture of the situation now that numbers from a recent homeless count have been released

Social service workers spent the summer trying to get homeless people out of the woods and off the streets.

In an official count taken three weeks ago, the mayor’s homeless coordinator, Nancy Burke, says they identified 602 people without a place to call their own. That number includes individuals staying in shelters, the woods and on the street.

“We are establishing baseline,” said Burke. “We are trying different things and we are being creative right now.”

Many people who once lived in the woods now spend their days near the Brother Francis Shelter and Bean’s Cafe. Staff at Bean’s Café say they are serving about 800 people every day for lunch.

“We are up about 100 people from this time last year,” said Kelli Hyden, assistant program manager at Bean’s Café.

Finding permanent housing for all of Anchorage’s homeless is an ongoing process. In the meantime, many people still need a place to sleep.

“The mayor asks me every day, ‘How many people have you housed,’” Burke said.

With colder months approaching, finding safe shelter for everyone this winter is top priority.

“In the past we just haven’t had the data to let us know how many people to plan for. We’ve had some measures in place but with the numbers this year we can really start examining all kinds of different strategies that we might do,” Burke said.

The numbers show there may be more homeless people this winter than available room in local shelters.

The city is looking into strategies such as expanding existing programs and calling on churches to open their doors to the homeless in emergency situations.

Burke says there’s no reason that anyone should have to spend the night in the cold.

KTVA 11's Shannon Ballard can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.