The latest numbers from the 2017 summer homeless count show 1,263 people are living on the streets or in shelters; that’s up from 644 people the year before.

Municipality Homeless Coordinator Nancy Burke said the increase is because they found a new, more accurate way to track people.

Instead of using a self-reporting survey to identify the homeless, Anchorage police officers and canvass workers from different agencies went into shelters and camps to meet with people face-to-face and learn their names.

“It’s important to recognize them as humans and help them come back to the community in a dignified way,” Burke said.

She said creating a list of peoples’ names and dates of birth will help them record the services each person has had in the past and what help they might need in the future.

Getting a more accurate baseline also lets homeless advocates know how many more shelter beds will be needed and how many people want to get into permanent housing.

“When you see people from the time they were on the street to the time after they’ve been housed, you notice an incredible difference in people and it really works,” Burke said.

She added that projects like RurAL CAP’s Karluk Manor and Sitka Place have a high rate of retention of keeping people off the streets once they have housing.

“One of the projects targeted the top 50 people who were cycling through homelessness before they were housed and we see a 90 percent retention through that project,” Burke said.

The Muni also does a “point in time” count to provide a snapshot of homelessness in the winter. In January 2017 they found 1,128 were homeless. Burke said they plan to implement the new counting method in January 2018 to get better baseline data as well.

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