Living in the shadows: Volunteers needed for key homeless census in Southern Nevada

They sleep outside, under bridges, and in the shadows. They are hidden to so many but everyone has a story.

It's not clear how many men, women, and children in Las Vegas are homeless. But we will soon have an answer.

The 2017 Southern Nevada Homeless Census gets underway tomorrow.

Once we know just how bad the situation is, we can work to make things better.

"I don't like to be a burden on society. I try to do what I can," explained Romelia Ortiz.

Ortiz lives outside a cemetery off busy Las Vegas Boulevard.

She has a tarp and blankets spread across the sidewalk.

It is survival in its most basic form.

But Ortiz says the hardest part is being away from her son.

"It's hard when you're homeless and you're actually looking for a job because they look at you funny," explained Ortiz.

Ortiz is not alone in her struggle to find shelter.

Josh Treadwell sings for strangers and collects bottles for money.

"People are dying out here every day, over five or three dollars. Stuff like that. Watch your back. Watch who you talk to," said Treadwell.

Some homeless are more hidden.

They live in storm drain tunnels under Las Vegas.

Last weekend, relentless rain swept three homeless people away from a wash near Hard Rock Hotel.

Firefighters were busy Sunday bringing them to safety.

"It's incredibly dangerous because this dam that they built was holding, but at some point with significant rain, the hydraulic pressure of the water is going to break away and wash everything away that they have underground," explained Clark County Fire Battalion Chief Eric Poleski.

RELATED LINK | Volunteers needed to help count the homeless in Clark County

Dozens of volunteers will move down city streets this week counting the men, women, and children without roofs over their heads.

It's Clark County's way of figuring out how to connect them with the help our homeless need.

Ortiz would like to be reunited with her son one day.

"I love him. It sucks I can't be with him. Trying to do the best I can out here," explained Ortiz.

Any individual or community group interested in volunteering to help count the homeless is encouraged to register online through the Help Hope Home website.

The county is especially in need of volunteers who have smartphones and volunteers with cars who are able to drive their team around one of the areas being counted.

To carry out the census, volunteers will leave from deployment centers to count the homeless population in designated areas without interacting with or disturbing the homeless individuals.

This is the tenth countywide effort to conduct a person-by-person count of the homeless in Clark County.

The 2016 homeless census found 6,208 homeless people staying in shelters or on the streets over two nights in January and estimated that more than 30,000 people experience homelessness in Southern Nevada throughout the year.

The homeless census was a qualifying requirement for grants that provided more than $12 million last year to local programs that help the homeless.

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