Volunteers combed the city Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, in an attempt to count the number of people sleeping on city streets and subways.

The annual ritual, which dates back to 2005, is called the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate — also known as the HOPE count. The city conducts the count in order to provide the federal government with estimates of New York City's street homeless population.

The results of the point in time census count are expected in the spring or early summer.

During the first COVID-19 era count in 2021, the city identified 2,376 homeless people, a major drop from previous years. City officials and advocates cautioned that the low numbers were likely due to the fact that volunteers weren’t allowed to participate because of pandemic restrictions, resulting in far fewer people who were able to count outside. During the early months of the pandemic, the city had also made an effort to move homeless people who were reluctant to go into congregate shelters off the streets and into hotel rooms.

By last year, the city found 3,439 people living on the streets and subways, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels.

The HOPE count is regularly criticized by advocates, who point out that it takes place during the coldest time of the year, when the fewest people are outdoors. Volunteers can miss people who are riding the trains or taking shelter in emergency rooms, 24-hour fast food joints or bank vestibules.

New Yorkers living on the streets make up just a small fraction of the city’s homeless population. In October, the city surpassed a record for the number of people living in city shelters, a number that’s continued to rise in months since. According to the city's daily shelter census, 69,384 people were staying in city shelters and hotels, through Monday.