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Best step to tackle homelessness: Homeless Registry

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It's hard to combat homelessness if you don't know exactly who or how many need help. Atlanta's officials realized this last year. The city's Innovation Delivery Team, which is funded by a grant from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's philanthropic foundation, wanted to figure out a better way to get men and women off the city's streets. So City Hall recruited an army of volunteers on a freezing January evening to help create its first-ever Homeless Registry. Over a 12-hour period, volunteers visited Atlanta's shelters and other so-called hot spots where they offered participants $5 McDonald's gift cards in exchange for taking a confidential survey. In total, the volunteers spoke with nearly 400 people. The survey asked personal questions about past employment, housing, substance abuse, and mental illness history. Although the findings won't solve the problem of homelessness, at least the city now has a better idea of what the issues are.

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