02/18/2015 06:18 EST | Updated 04/20/2015 05:59 EDT

Montreal homeless count: date set, hundreds of volunteers needed

Montrealers are being asked to help organizations who work with the city's homeless get a better idea of how many people are on the street. 

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Following an approach used by big cities around the world, the Douglas Mental Health University Institute Research Centre, along with partners including Quebec YMCAs, is organizing a survey to get a better understanding of the scale of the problem.

The count is set to take place March 24. 

Volunteer recruitment starts today with the launch of the project's website.

"We are recruiting 600 volunteers who will be assigned a sector in a street or in a shelter with a team and they will go to their sector or their shelter and they will meet all the homeless people they can identify and ask them a few questions," said James McGregor, general manager of the Montreal Homeless Count project.

The evening survey will focus mainly downtown and in boroughs surrounding downtown, in metro stations and in shelters. Surveys will also be conducted the following two days at day centres in order to account for "hidden homelessness."

"In the West Island, what we're told is that there's no street homelessness at night to speak of so that's why it's important to do the day centres, where in fact you might get young people couch surfing in the basement of a friend," McGregor said.  

"It's a different kind of homelessness. It's what's called hidden homelessness, so that's what we're hoping to get a better picture of in the days following the night count."