Thousands of volunteers brave the cold for annual Greater LA homeless count

The annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count kicked off Tuesday night with help from Mayor Eric Garcetti. It's an attempt to see how well efforts to help the homeless are working.

The city uses the data gathered to determine how to best disperse resources to tackle the crisis of homelessness. Officials say this is the largest survey of homeless people in the country. And although the numbers show a slight decline in those sleeping on the streets, many feel the problem is getting worse.

"We all gotta live and survive one way or another. We do it the best way we can," said Michael Carpenter, a homeless man who lives below a freeway underpass in North Hollywood. He wonders why there are so many hurdles to getting help.

"More funds, more money, but nobody's seeing any results from it yet," Carpenter said. "Give these people a break because this is all we have."

People like Dennis Austin, his neighbor. They look out for each other.

"We are human beings," Austin proclaimed. "And a lot of us, the only family we have is our fellow homeless people out here."

They are two of the countless faces of homelessness in Los Angeles. But beginning Tuesday, thousands of volunteers will attempt just that -- counting LA city and county's homeless population.

"I think people get so overwhelmed by numbers," said Mayor Garcetti. "They see an encampment with 20 people, or they hear about 40,000 people, and they wonder how does this ever end? Until you hear the story of one family and realize folks that are on the street or in a camper could be us.

The Mayor helped kick off the volunteer event, calling homelessness a humanitarian crisis and emphasizing that counting people is only step one.

"We count everybody, so we know where they are, who they are. And we can tailor that money to have the best bang for the buck," Garcetti added.

Volunteers will fan out across the region counting for the next three days.

As Dennis Austin shared his story of homelessness, he shared what he feels is lacking most: involvement from the public. But after seeing the thousands of volunteers eager to help, he might soon change his mind.