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Bill de Blasio

Once-a-year homeless count draws criticism, defenders

Over the past few weeks, thousands of clipboard-toting volunteers have fanned out across some of the nation's largest cities, tasked with a deceptively complex job: counting the number of homeless people sleeping on the streets.

They've had to do it under difficult conditions that some social service groups say are bound to produce an inaccurate tally. The official counts are done once a year, in the dead of winter, when homeless people are more likely to be hunkered down in places that are hard to see.

The challenging nature of the count was on display at 2 a.m. Tuesday in New York City when volunteers knelt down to question a man sleeping on a Manhattan sidewalk beneath...