Around 900 volunteers fanned out across Metro Vancouver last night at midnight to take part in the regional homeless count.

Since 2002, the 24-hour event has taken place every three years, with 2623 people counted in 2011.

Deb Bryant, the chair of the Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness, says the project helps the community, as well as higher levels of government, to better understand how to address the issue.

Homeless count Vancouver

A homeless man ties up his cart during the homeless count in 2011. (CBC)

"It's really one day, a point in time where we can take a look at who is experiencing homelessness, who is on the street and what can we learn about those people," she says.

"What is contributing to that situation for them? What different populations are most affected — youth, aboriginals and seniors?"

Organizers say, while the homeless population has stayed steady since 2008, they've determined more people are staying in shelters. They have also noticed a shift in demographics.

"There are a lot more young people, youth on the streets than we thought there were," says Bryant.

"We also know that about 40 per cent of those people come out of the foster system. So that gives us a really good idea of who to be supporting."

Vancouver's Mayor Gregor Robertson, who has pledged to end homelessness in the city by 2015, has been out on the streets taking part in his city's annual count on the same day as the regional count. 

This year's numbers will be released in late April, with a full report that will be made public in July.

With files from Emily Elias