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Yale Grad Wins Grammy as Member of Famed Quintet Pentatonix


Lifelong musician and Yale University graduate Kevin "K.O." Olusola soared to fame as a member of popular vocal quintet Pentatonix and brought home his first Grammy Award Sunday night.

"AHHHHHHH WE WON A GRAMMY!!!!!!!!!" Olusola tweeted from the awards ceremony, before taking the stage again to accompany Pharrell on cello.

According to a tweet from his alma mater, the multi-talented Olusola graduated from Yale in 2011, the same year Pentatonix got together.

Olusola was pre-med at Yale and spent 18 months in Beijing as part of a fellowship through the university's East Asia Studies program, according to his bio on the Pentatonix website.

But music was his first love – his true love.

Olusola picked up cello, piano and saxophone at an early age and has performed twice as a soloist at Carnegie Hall, a dream come true for any up-and-coming musician, his bio says.

He developed "celloboxing" skills while in college and won second place in the international "Celebrate and Collaborate with Yo-Yo Ma" competition in 2009, according to his bio.

After graduation, Olusola collaborated with Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kristin Maldonado and Avi Kaplan to form Pentatonix, which gained notoriety after winning the third season's of NBC's "The Sing-Off."

According to his Twitter account, Olusola will release the first single from his upcoming solo cello EP, "The Renegade," on Tuesday. The album is slated for release March 10.

Photo Credit: YouTube/Kevin Olusola
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Man Accused of Towing Sledding Kids in Pickup Arraigned Today


A Plainfield, Connecticut man accused of towing a sled full of children behind his pickup at high speeds during a snowstorm in late January was arraigned on Monday and is due back in court in March.

Police said Michael Chauvin, 40, of Plainfield, was driving recklessly in the area of Community Avenue with several young children and another adult in the bed of his truck, towing others on a sled behind him around 6 p.m. on Jan. 26.

Chauvin was arrested and charged with four counts of risk of injury to a minor, four counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and reckless driving.

He was released on a $10,000 bond and was arraigneed on Feb. 9, where bond was set at $10,000 and a new court date was set for March 2.

Photo Credit: Plainfield Police Department

Bristol Woman Provides Much-Needed Liver Donation to Husband


The idea of attending his 8-year-old daughter’s school events and dance competitions has been nothing but a dream for Matt Ragaini, who has been ill for years and in need of a liver donation. On Tuesday, he will get the much much-needed surgery thanks to his wife, who is donating part of her liver to him.

Doctors at the Yale-New Haven Hospital Transplantation Center will be doing the surgery that’s meant to save Matt’s life.

Matt didn’t qualify for a deceased liver donor due to his low ranking on what's called the “MELD” score, which stands for Model for End Stage Liver Disease.

Matt has a rare disease of his bile ducts, called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, or “PSC.” Since Matt is sicker than his score reflects, he and his wife started their desperate search for a living liver donor in 2014.

When Jen was tested, they discovered she was a match. To get approval to become her husband’s liver donor, Jen has undergone extensive physical and psychological testing.

While doctors can be hesitant to allow one spouse to donate to another because of the risks the surgery poses, time was running out for Matt. He relies on a feeding tube for nutrition and calories while he sleeps at night. He’s also been in and out of the hospital and must regularly have fluid drained from his abdomen.

The surgery is scheduled for Tuesday at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Jen’s scheduled to begin at 7 a.m., where doctors will take out 62 percent of her liver – the right lobe. Matt will go into an operating room next door two hours later.

“I’m saving my husband’s life” she said. “My emotions are everywhere right now, but he’ll be better after this. I keep saying, by summer he’s going to be like a new man.”

She will be in the hospital for up to a week and won’t be able to work for eight weeks.

The couple’s support system of friends and family will help them through this next step. Matt’s only brother, Nick, will not leave his side.

“When he comes out of surgery, I’ll be the one in the room hanging out with him and I’m sleeping in the room with him that night,” Nick said.

The couple’s 8-year-old daughter, Angela, will stay with relatives.

Angela said she is “happy and excited” that her father is finally getting help after years of poor health.

“I love them really much and I’m happy that they’re doing this,” she said.

Angela looks forward to having her Dad back to his old self.

“I can do more things with him that’s fun” Angela said.

The family set up a Facebook page called “Support for Ragz” to raise awareness.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Man Orders Girlfriend Shot as Part of Gang Initiation: Cops


A New Haven man allegedly arranged the shooting of his girlfriend, the mother of his three young children, as part of a gang initiation, according to police.

Police said Terquinten Lee Fulton, 30, of New Haven, ordered David Nieman, 24, of New Milford, to shoot the woman at her apartment on County Street in New Haven.

Nieman, a convicted felon, snuck into the home the evening of Jan. 31, chasing and shooting the woman when she showed up and tried to run away, according to police.

The victim called police, afraid the perpetrator was still in her apartment, but when officers arrived, they couldn't find anyone. Police said the woman is the mother of Fulton's three children, all of whom are under the age of 5.

Several days later, Nieman admitted to a date that he had shot a woman in New Haven, police said. His date no longer wanted to see him and called police when Nieman stole some of her money, authorities said.

According to police, officers from New Milford tracked down Nieman and found him and an accomplice attempting a burglary.

After his arrest, Nieman admitted to shooting the woman, but said Fulton had ordered him to do it and given him the gun as part of a gang initiation, police said.

Detectives grew concerned that Fulton's girlfriend wasn't the only one he wanted to hurt, so they arrested him on Lambert Street early Sunday morning.

Nieman has been charged with first-degree assault, unlawful discharge of a firearm, criminal possession of a firearm, home invasion and conspiracy to commit both first-degree assault and home invasion.

Fulton was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree assault and conspiracy to commit home invasion.

Photo Credit: New Haven Police Department

V-Day Sale: Newark, NJ Lots for $10


The city of Newark is offering couples who want to build homes municipally-owned lots for $1,000 in a "Valentine's Land Sale Day."

Buyers will be required to make a $500 down payment and pay the additional $500 at closing. They are responsible for all closing costs and must submit a site plan approved by the City Planning Board.

Couples interested in buying one of the lots in Newark's two Model Neighborhood initiative areas, a 20-block part of the Lower West Ward and a 30-block section of the South Ward. Both areas were granted additional police presence and other city resources as part of a crime reduction-initiative announced in November.

Prospective buyers must show a commitment letter from a financial institution and/or proof of cash to cover the cost of the new home construction before they can close, and that construction must be completed within 18 months after closing, the city said.

The couple also has to live on the property for five years after getting an occupancy certificate.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said the Valentine's Day land sale is a unique way to promote home ownership while benefiting the city.

"We are observing Valentine’s Day with creativity and a commitment to Newark’s couples, by offering them opportunities to achieve their American dream of home ownership," Baraka said in a statement. "At the same time, we are turning vacant lots into homes that strengthen our communities, replacing blight with development. Out-of-the-box steps like these are how we will transform Newark into a City we can all believe in."

The sale will run Saturday, Feb. 14 from 9 a.m. to noon at City Hall. For more information on the program, click here.  

Photo Credit: AP

Naugatuck Liquor Store Robbed at Knifepoint


Police are searching for the man who robbed a Naugatuck liquor store at knifepoint over the weekend.

According to police, the robber entered the Cork N Keg Liquor Store at 430 Rubber Avenue around 12:15 p.m. Sunday. He pulled out a knife and demanded money from the clerk.

Police said the robber, who was wearing a gray or blue ski jacket with a hooded sweatshirt underneath, got away with an unknown amount of cash and other store merchandise. The clerk was not hurt.

Anyone with information on the robbery is urged to call Naugatuck police at 203-729-5221 or the NPD confidential tip line at 203-720-1010.

Photo Credit: Naugatuck Police Department

Access Health Deadline Approaching


The deadline to sign up for health insurance on the state's health care exchange is just six days away, and residents who don't enroll in insurance plans could be on the hook for tax penalties.

“We don’t want you to have the penalty," said Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman. "We want you to do what’s best for you and that’s to have health insurance.”

Penalties range in severity depending on the potential amount.

The hit could be up 2 percent of your gross adjusted household income for the tax filing period, or one of three levels: $375 for an individual, $162.50 for a child, and $975 for a family without any kind of health coverage.

So far, Access Health CT has enrolled more than 400,000 Medicaid customers and about 100,000 private health insurance customers, known as Qualifying Health Plans, or QHPs.

Customers can only sign up for coverage outside the open enrollment period – which started in November and ends Sunday night – if they meet certain criteria.

Residents who have gotten married, divorced, had a baby or adopted a child can make changes to their QHP.

The recent Anthem hack has also played a part in enrollment. According to Wyman, of the 100,000 new QHPs, roughly 40,000 were Anthem plans and could have data compromised in the January data breach.

Hackers obtained names, addresses and social security numbers but the company maintains that health records weren't compromised.

"Remember, if you're an Anthem customer that they won't call or email you with information about the breach. They'll only contact you by mail," Wyman said.

New Haven Students to Make Up Snow Day


School officials in New Haven will add an extra day to the academic calendar after more snow kept students home again for the third time Monday.

The city built two snow days into its school calendar, and since Monday was the third snow day of the year, a day of school will be added on June 18.

Schools officials outlined the possibility of extra days in a letter to parents in November, which explained that the first seven additional snow days will be added to the end of the school year. Additional days will be taken from April vacation if need be.

“There's nothing you can do about it. The snow is snow, you can't stop it. We have nothing to do about it,” said Cedric Herbert, a New Haven grandfather.

Woman Says Hotel Guard Raped Her


A 49-year-old woman from North Texas says in a new lawsuit that a security guard at the Holiday Inn Northshore Chicago drugged and raped her while she was staying at the hotel on a business trip.

Karla Gress, who is from the Dallas, Texas area, sued the hotel, its owner, its director of operations and a hotel security guard Monday in Cook County Circuit Court.

Gress, a mother of three and a senior application consultant who provides training on software to medical staff, was in town for a week-long business trip on Oct. 2, 2013, her suit says.

According to her suit, Gress went to the hotel's restaurant Bar Louie after finishing up work at a nearby hospital. The hotel’s security guard may have placed a drug in her drink, Gress alleges in her suit.

Gress says the security guard entered her hotel room that evening without her consent and raped her. She says she woke up in her hotel room confused, before she started remembering what she believes happened.

"I realized I had been raped. I could hear his voice, and I remember not being able to stand up," Gress said in a press conference Monday.

"I not only want to make sure this does not happen to another soul, but I also want change," she  said. "I don't believe this is the first time this has happened and I don't believe it will be the last."

Skokie police said a report was filed afterward, and the security guard was arrested in January after months of investigation but ultimately released without being charged. The Cook County State's Attorney's office said the case is an open investigation, and they could not comment.

Gress’ attorney, Tara Devine, says those named in the suit “failed to take reasonable steps to secure the safety of their customers and guests.” Devine told reporters she hopes the lawsuit will encourage police to file rape charges.

“Mrs. Gress’ life will never be the same because of the hotel’s failure to protect her,” said Devine, an attorney with Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard PC. “The Holiday Inn Chicago Northshore-Skokie was negligent on many different fronts, having inadequate security measures, improper training of employees, and failure to follow what should be standard hotel procedures for the safety of its guests. Bottom line, this hotel employee never should have been in Mrs. Gress’ hotel room.”

The hotel's owner did not respond to NBC Chicago’s request for comment.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com

Plow Drivers Face Tough Conditions in Latest Storms


Snow storms have become daily occurrences across Connecticut over the past few weeks.

Plow truck drivers working for cities, towns and for the state have been going nearly around the clock to keep roads in good condition. But even with the extra pay, drivers say the snow gets old.

“Over and over again," Virgil Griffin said, as he sat in his plow truck near downtown Hartford. "It’s a process.”

Drivers do get breaks along the way. Many of them reported for work early in the morning and weren't expected to finish until early evening. Griffin said the breaks are really about making sure the drivers can get some rest before the next long haul.

"We get some space here so that we get some rest and so we can get back out. Safety is the first thing because I want to get home to my wife and kids," Griffin said.

Salt delivery truck drivers, who also face increased demand this time of year, see similar patterns.

Ed Scarpa said he's busy all day delivering salt in a huge dump truck the size of an 18-wheeler.

“The salt has to get through just like the mail," Scarpa said. "I'm Salta Claus!"

Caught on Video: Armed CVS Robbery


A robber in a fur-hooded jacket walked into a CVS pharmacy in Manhattan overnight, wrestled the manager to the ground and stole $9,000 in cash at gunpoint, surveillance video shows.

Police said the suspect walked into the CVS at 360 Avenue of the Americas in Greenwich Village at about 3:15 a.m. and forced the manager into the back office.

Surveillance video shows the suspect tackling the manager and attacking him in the office before the manager is forced to open a safe at gunpoint. The suspect stuffs the caash into his black messenger bag, then runs out of the office.

The suspect was wearing a black three-quarter length winter jacket with a fur-lined hood, gray pants and brown boots. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

Serial Stowaway Arrested in Florida


A judge in Jacksonville, Florida set bail on Tuesday at $50,000 for a Bay Area serial stowaway who landed herself in more trouble in the Sunshine State.

Marilyn Hartman was ordered back into custody after her brief court hearing in Florida, where she faces two felony fraud charges and one misdemeanor count of trespassing after sneaking onto a flight from Minnesota and posing as "Biggest Loser" guest at a resort. The judge appointed  a public defender for her and ordered her to return to court on March 5, according to NBC sister station, First Coast News.

What remains unclear, is how Hartman snuck aboard another plane, again. Transportation Security Administration officials said they are investigating.

Hartman, who said she has an unrecognized illness called "whistleblower trauma syndrome," was taken into custody on Monday on suspicion of using a false name in an attempt to obtain transportation from the Jacksonville International Airport, authorities said. As a whistleblower, Hartman has said previously that she was forced by the FBI to flee her house, rendering her homeless. Authorities have tried to get her help at a San Mateo County treatment center in the Bay Area, but she was uncooperative and left the program.

Nassau County Sheriff's officials said the 63-year-old used a false name from a real guest checking into the "Biggest Loser Resort" program on Sunday at the Omni Resort Amelia Island Plantation, where she checked into a $300 a night room. She used Maria Sangren's name, the sheriff's report states, and as it turns out, the real Maria Sangren was staying at the hotel to particpate in the fitness and weight loss program, as later noted by the coordinator of the program.

Hartman disappeared when she was contacted by the resort to return to the front desk due to a booking error. But resort security on Monday found her. She had snuck into in a room that was being renovated, a sheriff's deputy noted.

This is far from the first time Harman has been arrested for sneaking on to a plane.

On  Aug. 4, she was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport after police there say she got through security at Mineta San Jose International Airport and boarded an LA-bound flight.

Officials said Hartman has previously breached security at San Francisco International Airport and has a history of trying to get on flights without a ticket. She had at least seven encounters with police at SFO and was arrested four times, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office. In an email on Tuesday, DA Steve Wagstaffe noted that Florida is treating her more seriously than other states, noting the high bail and setting her court date out for next month.

"Of course, when she was in our county jail," Wagstaffe said, "she seemed to enjoy intermingling with other inmates and correctional officers. Just another place to sleep at night. Airports, jails, she is quite the character."

In less than two weeks after being released from jail for violating her probation at LAX last year, Hartman was arrested at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix after being spotted loitering in the baggage claim area.

In court on Tuesday, Hartman told the judge that she is retired legal secretary and receiveds $849 in Social Security each month.

NBC's First Coast News Jacob Long, NBC Bay Area's Kristofer Noceda and Lisa Fernandez and NBC LA's Christina Cocca contributed to this report.

Mass. Man Fatally Hit by Snowplow


A man was fatally struck by a plow in Medford, Massachusetts, Monday afternoon, according to the Middlesex District Attorney's Office.

The crash occurred in the parking lot of the Whole Foods Market Bakery on Middlesex Avenue around 1:30 p.m.

Cesar Moya, 60, of Chelsea, was struck while he was walking to his car after finishing his shift at the bakery. He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Police are investigating, but say the incident appears to be accidental. The plow operator has not been charged. 

Photo Credit: NBC10 - Ted Greenberg

Florida Man Stabs Friend Over $5


A Broward man was arrested after authorities say he repeatedly stabbed his friend over a $5 wager.

Anthony Lemar Mells, 51, was arrested on a premeditated attempted murder charge Sunday.

He was ordered held without bond Monday during a court appearance before Broward Judge John Hurley.

According to the arrest report read by Hurley, Mells and the victim, who have known each other for several years, got into an argument over a $5 wager. Mells stabbed the victim several times, Hurley said.

Mells' attorney said he used the knife in self defense. The victim's identity and condition were unknown.

Photo Credit: Broward Sheriff's Office

Boston Sets Snowfall Record


Boston has set a record for the most snow recorded in a 30-day period, and more is on the way.

The National Weather Service said Boston had received 68.6 inches in the last 30 days by Monday, breaking the record of 58.8 inches in one 30-day period ending in February 1978.

Logan International Airport had a little more than a foot by 7 a.m. from a storm that was expected to last all day and add several more inches.

There's been more than 29 inches in Weymouth and 24 inches in Norwell as of Monday afternoon.

Bangor, Maine, has also tied the all-time highest snow depth record as of 7 a.m. Monday. The snow depth at Bangor International Airport was 53 inches, tying the record highest snow depth set back in the winter of 1969.

Photo Credit: necn

Hartford Digs Out After Another Storm


People in Hartford are digging out after yet another winter storm.

City crews worked to clear sidewalks and plow school parking lots Monday night so classes can resume Tuesday.

Drivers who normally park on the streets have had to find a new place during parking bans.

“I’m ready for spring. I’m really ready for spring,” said Aaron Smith, of Hartford.

The end of the ban on Monday meant winter weary drivers could retrieve their cars, hoping to make the trek for the last time this season, but staying optimistic nonetheless.

“It’s awful. It could’ve been worse. We have to enjoy,” said Hartford resident Wayne McMahon.

Plow truck drivers were going non-stop Monday.

“It’s been crazy. Been a lot of snow, a lot of plowing. This is the second time I cleaned this lot today,” said United Contractors driver Harold Rodriguez.

While it’s good money, the series of winter storms means long days living in the truck and lots of coffee.

“It’s been a rough winter so far,” said Rodriguez. weather.

The city of Hartford said most residents complied with the parking ban. Those who were towed and ticketed face a bill of nearly $200.

Hannah Graham Case News Conference


Jesse Matthew, the man accused of abducting University of Virginia student Hannah Graham last year, has been charged with her murder, sources told NBC29 in Charlottesville

Graham was a second-year student when she disappeared in September, prompting a month-long search that ended when her remains were found just miles from where she was last seen in Charlottesville.

Two sources told NBC29 Matthew, 32, was charged with first-degree murder in Graham's death. A news conference on the matter is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday. 

DNA evidence also linked Matthew to the 2009 disappearance and death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. Her remains were found three months after she disappeared the night she attended a rock concert at U.Va.

Matthew has also been linked to a 2005 attack on a woman in Fairfax. He pleaded not guilty to all three charges he is facing in connection with the 2005 case, in which a 26-year-old woman was walking home from a grocery store when she was grabbed and dragged into a wooded area, where she was sexually assaulted. 

Waterbury to Dump Snow at Municipal Stadium Lot


After receiving 9.5 inches of snow by Monday evening on top of nearly a foot that came down last week, the city of Waterbury is shaving down snow piles for safety's sake and has opted to dump the snow outside the Municipal Stadium.

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary met with public works crews as the snow came down Mondays to brainstorm ways to deal with snow that has made congested downtown streets even tighter.

Starting Tuesday night, crews will work to remove snow from the downtown area and will cart it in dump trucks to the Municipal Stadium parking lot on Watertown Avenue. If the lot fills up, city leaders will turn to other viable locations, such as parks, O'Leary said.

O'Leary said he hopes public works crews, who have been extraordinarily busy over the past couple weeks, will get some rest before the process begins tomorrow night.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Hartford City Council to Vote on Police Body Cameras


The city of Hartford could be one step closer to requiring its police officers to wear body cameras as the City Council plans to vote on the proposal Tuesday night.

The meeting was rescheduled from Monday due to the snowstorm.

Police departments in East Haven, Branford and Hamden have already made the decision to use body cameras. The cameras are a relatively new technology that police forces across the country have used to document the activities of officers and their interactions with the people in their communities.

“We have great officers out there and this is good for showing the decrease in complaints against police,” Hartford City Council President Shawn Wooden, who supports the resolution, previously said.

If approved, the resolution would require Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and Chief of Police James Rovella to craft a road map of sorts on how to implement the cameras and policies governing them.

The plan would be due to the city council by March 15.

Hartford police don’t oppose the cameras and concede that they’ve heard Hartford residents support the idea. They are, however, cautious about the logistics of how and when they’re used and how to handle the data and footage.

“It’s not the initial cost of the body cameras, it’s the storage,” Deputy Chief Brian Foley previously said, explaining that the cameras cost between $300 and $1,000 apiece. “Let’s say we put out 150 body cameras, max – 150 cops walking around with them, 150 cameras that need to be maintained and each day, the data needs to be stored and processed.”

Foley also said there are questions around the country regarding the use of the cameras and how they’re handled when Freedom of Information requests are submitted.

“These are all things that we would have to discuss with our union,” Foley previously said.
Calls to the Hartford Police Union were not returned.

Wooden said the cameras on their own will help to restore trust when residents know their interactions with law enforcement are being recorded.

“We want people to believe in our police officers. We want people in the community to trust that everything is on the up and up,” Wooden previously said.

Foley agrees with Wooden but described the cameras as a “two-way street.” He said in one sense, there are no secrets about police activity and interactions; however, Foley said he sees some issues with obtaining information.

“There’s going to be instances where informants, neighborhood contacts, they’re going to say, "Hey, there’s bad stuff going on or they’re dealing drugs out of that house.' People aren’t going to tell you that if they know they’re being recorded,” he explained.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Hartford's city hall at 550 Main Street. Click here to read the full agenda.

Photo Credit: AP

1 Night to Count the Homeless: Critics Question Tally


The woman pushing a shopping cart was one of the few out on the streets of downtown Brooklyn after midnight Tuesday as a team of volunteers spread out in search of homeless people trying to keep warm in the frigid air.

Wearing a single mitten in the 20 degree weather and a T-shirt under her jacket, she declined an offer of a van to a shelter. She was the daughter of Coco Chanel and been kidnapped, she told the team at one point.

The volunteers were among a cadre trying to count New York City's homeless population and so they logged her answers to their questionnaire and moved on — though because the early morning was so cold they were making sure no one they encountered was in danger. Last year's count drew 3,000 volunteers and the tally's organizers were hoping for a similar number of volunteers on Monday.

Now in the 10th year, the nationwide estimates of people in shelters and on the streets are required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and they remain contested, particularly over whether they are accurate.

Patrick Markee, the deputy executive director for advocacy at the Coalition for the Homeless in New York, said the survey’s flawed methodology resulted in an undercount of people who are on the streets.

“The idea of doing a single night count or guesstimate of all of homeless people on the streets of New York City, which has the largest homeless population in the country, is just by its very nature kind of absurd,” Markee said.

A better approach would be to talk to staff at soup kitchens, shelters and other front-line organizations and estimate their use over a month, he said.

The number of homeless people staying in New York City’s shelters is at 58,500 this month. How many are sleeping on streets and in city's parks is more difficult to determine. Last year's estimate was 3,357, down from 4,395 in 2005.

Steve Berg, the vice president for programs and policy at the National Alliance to End Homelessness in Washington D.C., agreed that the count gives only an approximation of the size of the problem. But it is nonetheless valuable, he said.

"It is not the easiest thing in the world to do to figure out exactly how many people there are sleeping outside on a given night and so nobody thinks that they’re finding every single homeless person in the whole country," he said. "But I think places do the best they can."

Los Angeles is second only to New York with the most homeless residents, but there the difficulties are different. Volunteers must try to find people across the county's 4,000 miles over three days and officials have disagreed on the best method.

Los Angeles had nearly 40,000 homeless residents in 2013. It initially counted more but a telephone survey used to find what officials called the hidden homeless was challenged by federal authorities seeking consistency across the country.

This year's count -- communities must tally the number in shelters every year and those on the streets at least every other year -- focused on veterans. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald was in Los Angeles late last month for the tally as part of a national push to find housing for men and women who served in the armed forces.

Across the country, the number of homeless people has been dropping, from 760,000 in 2005, the year of the first count, to 643,000 in 2009. During the recession, the numbers leveled off, then fell again to 578,000 in 2014.

But national numbers can mask increases in individual communties. Washington D.C.'s count last year found nearly 12,000 homeless people, a 3.5 percent increase.

Berg said the overall decrease was a way to show that money spent on helping people find housing and jobs was well spent.

"I think everybody understands that homelessness is bad, that any amount of homelessness is bad," he said. "The problem is people don’t think you can do anything about it."

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated $2.135 billion for its largest homeless programs for the 2015 fiscal year and has proposed $2.48 billion for the next fiscal year.

Ann Oliva, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for special needs, said that the annual counts are a tool for measuring the need in communities.

"This annual exercise gives us valuable data on year-to-year trends and has shown the significant progress we have made over the past five years toward ending homelessness," she said.

Out on the streets in downtown Brooklyn, the team met one man who would rather ride the subways than stay at a shelter and another, with a cane, who claimed to be fine. And on a subway platform, they encountered their first pair of decoys, volunteers waiting to be found as a way to ensure the accuracy of the count.

"It's not a perfect science," said Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, before the teams set out. "Homelessness is not a perfect condition. The face of homelessness changes all the time. You don't know if a person is spending one night on the couch of his friend, another night on the couch of someone else."

Photo Credit: FILE-AP
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