Last week, John Burgess stood up to be counted.

On Jan. 25, 106 volunteers from the Community Shelter Board took to the streets and shelters in annual effort to get an official count of the homeless in Columbus and Franklin County.

"It's really, really hard to do," said Sara Loken, a spokeswoman for the shelter board. "It's hard to do because they're scattered all across the city."

Burgess lives in his van which he parks at Holy Family Catholic Church in Franklinton. He has been on the streets for two years after losing his job. Estranged from his family, his options are limited.

Burgess said $490 a month in Supplemental Security Income benefits doesn't cut it. He prefers to live alone, making it more difficult to stretch the dollars.

He said he applied for an increase in benefits, which would help.

"If I can get that I'd be alright," he said, "but that's hard to do, too."

The count is to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and would be considered to demonstrate the need for federal resources, Loken said.

Of the Community Shelter Board's $31 million annual budget, two-thirds comes from the public sector.

The number of homeless people in the county has held steady from 1,707 people in 2015 to 1,715 in 2016.

Since 2011, authorities have recored a 64 percent increase in homeless families and a 14 percent uptick in the number of homeless men and women.

Volunteers visited shelters, transitional housing and people on the street to gather their numbers.

The final count won't be complete until April while the board checks for duplication of names.

Loken said she believes the numbers to be fairly accurate.

"Despite the best effort of the (shelter board) planning group and volunteers, any count of people experiencing homelessness is bound to be limited and incomplete," she said. "It is not possible to find every single person in the county at a single point in time, but we do our best and know that it gives us a good indication of the need for programs that end homelessness."

Each person participating in the survey is asked a series of questions, ranging from demographic information to health problems.

Loken said many factors contribute to homelessness.For example, Franklin County has one of the highest eviction rates in the nation and an increasing poverty rate.

According to the Franklin County Municipal Court's annual report in 2015, 18,441 evictions were conducted -- the most in Ohio. By comparison, there were 21,998 evictions that same year in New York City.

"So for us as a community, let's start looking at what's happening around evictions," Loken said. "Let's find out why the number is so high and what we can do about it."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary