There are many people and organizations reaching out to help feed and provide for those in need this Thanksgiving holiday. 

Some advocates say the size of the homeless population heading into the winter months is very concerning. 

Father Tracy Advocacy Center is one of many outreach organizations in the Rochester area working to help the homeless. 

“I would say this is the largest number of homeless individuals we’ve seen in Rochester," said Beatriz LeBron, the center’s executive director.

The agency is part of a collaboration with other organizations, including AME Zion Church and MC Collaborative. 

“This is one of the best social services teams I’ve ever worked with in terms of getting access to resources and advocating for the clients, but at the end of the day it’s a numbers game, and we just simply don’t have enough shelter beds as it stands," said LeBron. 

“Absolutely, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen," said boots on the ground social worker and MC Collaborative co-founder Andy Carey. “[Homelessness] seems to be more present than I’ve ever noticed before; there seems to be more and more homeless individuals.” 

According to the 2022 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are 74,178 homeless people in New York state — and Carey says the actual number could be double.

“When you talk about one of the most marginalized communities, it’s obviously the hardest to count,” said Carey. “And the federal statute by Housing and Urban Development is at one 24-hour period in January to count everyone who’s homeless in your area — of course, that’s ridiculous.” 

Advocates aren’t just noticing the increase in the number of homeless individuals — they’re noticing a change in the homeless population. That includes seeing more young people, runaways, families and people living in cars.

“And then just the sheer amount of families and individuals living in cars. It is amazing how many people are living in cars,” said Carey. “Maybe they have a YMCA membership or something so they can go in and get cleaned up and then get ready for the day, that type of thing. So I think we’re starting to see a little more of working people who are homeless.” 

“There is a large number of working poor and even lower-class individuals struggling with maintaining a house or finding affordable housing that has good quality," said LeBron. “There’s a lot of individuals who are working who have kids who are couch surfing.”

The advocates say those who are so-called couch surfing aren’t even counted in the homeless numbers.

But they are working on solutions. 

“For me, we’re trying to advocate and work with the county like MC Collaborative, like Andy and his team trying to figure out how do we create more beds, even if it’s just a cot in an empty school building, so that folks are not standing outside or having to stay outside under freezing extreme temperatures," said LeBron.

“We’ll continue to do our outreach and all that, but the reality is I think we need to think about emergency sheltering differently,” said Carey. “We’ll need to have a lot more space and understand that people will be there a lot longer.”