THE BRONX - Braving freezing temperatures, thousands of volunteers hit the streets of New York City Monday to lend a helping hand as a part of the Department of Homeless Services? 7th annual Hope Count.

?It's the city's way of measuring how successful its outreach team is in reducing street homelessness,? explains Homeless Outreach Coordinator Noel Concepcion.

More than 100 volunteers gathered at the campus of Fordham University for a brief training before heading out to the streets. One of the teams scoured Pelham Bay in search of people living in abandoned cars or piles of garbage, but to no avail. That was a good sign in the eyes of the group?s leader, Frank Christie.

?We encourage them to get off the streets, especially with weather like this,? Christie said.

Organizers said they conduct the survey in mid-January because it gives them the best information about people who live on the streets throughout the year. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to determine the effectiveness of outreach programs managed by the Department of Homeless Services.

Despite the efforts by volunteers, there is a widespread concern that city administration is going to drastically reduce services to the homeless in light of the current economic crisis. Organizers of the homeless count hope its results will encourage Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reconsider denying assistance to those living on the streets.