Vancouver’s mayor credits the city’s emergency winter homeless shelters for the relatively small number of people observed sleeping on city streets in yesterday’s homeless count.

About 300 volunteers visited shelters, drop-in centres and alleyways, tallying the number of homeless people and asking them questions such as how often they use shelters and what health services they use.

Mayor Gregor Robertson spent about three hours yesterday morning in the alleys on either side of Granville Mall with Jill Davidson, the city’s assistant director of housing policy.

“There are still people sleeping outside,” Robertson said. “But it looks like we may have fewer sleeping outside and rough than we did two years ago.”

In 2008, a regional count found 1,547 homeless in Vancouver and a total of 2,592 across the region.

About 600 people spent the night in the city’s HEAT and emergency winter response shelters, Robertson added.

The emergency shelters, which are scheduled to close at the end of April, were full to capacity through winter and often had to turn people away.

“The shelters are doing their part to help people get through the winter. To eat, sleep and take care of themselves better.”

Findings from the homeless count will be presented to council at a future date.