Five students from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology recently participated in One Night Count, an annual effort organized by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness to document the nature and extent of homelessness in the city. Launched in 1980, One Night Count is the largest community-driven count of its kind in the United States. More than 1,100 volunteers worked with 125 trained team leaders throughout Seattle and King County for this year’s event, 2-5 a.m. on January 24.

The students from The Seattle School were assigned to a residential neighborhood in Ballard and counted nearly 20 people sleeping outside that night. Elise Hale-Case, Student Council Facilitator, says she was drawn to the event by the opportunity to join a grassroots effort that is addressing a significant need: “It is as accurate of a census as we can get of the people living on the street in Seattle. The data we collected will be used to directly advocate for more funding for services for those who need it most in our community.”

This year’s volunteers counted a total of 3,772 people living without shelter—an increase of 21 percent over last year. One Night Count also surveys local organizations to tally the number of people in transitional housing and shelters. View the preliminary count results, including demographic and location details, here.

“I can think of few experiences that are more sobering than walking around in the dead of winter in the middle of the night, looking under bushes, in cars, in doorways for people,” says Hale-Case. “To do this count well, you have to pay attention to people and situations which, most of the time during the day, are too painful to fully pay attention to.” Student Council seeks to provide connections between The Seattle School students and the local community, and Hale-Case says she looks forward to finding more efforts like One Night Count for students to join.