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Milwaukee police begin operation to count the city’s homeless

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee police officers have begun an operation that only happens twice a year -- an attempt to count all of Milwaukee's homeless -- a group they believe is growing.

Police have hit the streets, looking for the city's homeless, many of whom don't want to be found.

Officer James Knapinski was part of a mission to count the number of homeless in Milwaukee on Wednesday, July 31st.

"I think the population has gone up a little bit.  The times are hard," Knapinski said.

Police searched parks big and small, in areas not so obvious.

Robert Ellis will be part of the night's statistics.

"I was a carpenter for over 30 years.  A couple years ago I broke my neck, so I'm out of work. I pretty much do what I can to get by on social security.  And I'm trying to get housing now," Ellis said.

Ellis has been on the streets for two years.

"When you're homeless you don't need to ask for a whole lot.  Just ask for what you can get, and satisfy yourself," Ellis said.

Finding folks like Ellis is important, police say, because determining how many people are without a permanent home is necessary to help secure grants and funding for a growing homeless population.

People aren't just being counted. Volunteers and police officers are handing out basic supplies and offering information for services that can help.

"They all are people.  They all have a mother, and a father, a family, that they are probably disconnected to because of their particular situation," Knapinski said.

Anyone without a permanent home is considered homeless, by the survey's standards. That number could top 1,000 in Milwaukee.

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