by Bryce Covert

The phone rings just as Katrina Fingerson and Latoya McClary are about to leave to start their shift at the Goddard Riverside Community Center. It comes in on the line reserved for the 311 calls from concerned citizens and businesses who report homeless people on the streets, and the receptionist immediately starts scribbling down details. Male, pushing a shopping cart, clothes falling off, located at 39th Street and 3rd Avenue. The man falls into Fingerson and McClary’s territory — anywhere from 42nd Street south to the water — so he becomes their priority as they get in the car and drive uptown.

The two, who represent the downtown evening shift at Goddard, will spend the next seven hours trying to track down the homeless of New York City living on the streets — more than 3,000 people on a given night — in order to record their existence while offering them services and support, starting with the man flagged by a 311 caller. Their on-the-ground work is the only way the city can wrap its arms around its sprawling homeless population, a fundamental step before it can even start thinking about how to reduce it.

And right now, that’s incredibly important to the city. In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced that New York City would sign on to a federal initiative to end veteran homelessness, committing to housing all the city’s homeless veterans by the end of this year. In a city with nearly 68,000 homeless people, including 1,645 veterans at the end of 2014, the second-highest number of homeless veterans in a city, that’s no small feat. And to get there, the city will need to know exactly who is out there, whether they’re veterans, and what they need to get inside. It’s relying on organizations like Goddard, and therefore people like Fingerson and McClary, to be its eyes on the streets.

Read more at ThinkProgress