One thousand volunteers scoured Auckland streets, alleyways, bushes and graveyards last nightin an attempt to count every last homeless person in the city.
The first region-wide survey of rough sleepers, which began at 9.30pm and ran until after midnight, aimed to provide the most accurate snapshot yet of the problem.
Volunteers worked in groups of three to cover the area from Wellsford in the north to Waiuku in the south, and from Piha in the west to Hunua Ranges in the east.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff was among them, and went out with a group who were walking the streets in West Auckland.
"Nobody has done a survey of this nature before," Goff said.
"This will give us a more accurate picture and give us an idea of what we're up against."
Goff said there was a "sense of shame" at the number of people living on the streets.
While there had always been some homeless in Auckland, it had worsened in recent years because of population growth, the cost of housing, and a slowdown in the provision of social housing, Goff said.
The most recent count of homeless in 2016, which focused only on the central city, found 177 people living on the street and another 51 in temporary accommodation.
A University of Otago study in 2015 estimated there were around 4200 rough sleepers across the country, and about 771 in Auckland.
The final numbers from last night's count will be published next month. The council would then talk to Government and NGOs about its response.
The main response to homelessness so far has been the Housing First programme, which puts people directly into permanent houses – rather than temporary shelters – before dealing with any mental health or addiction issues.
It has housed 582 people since it was established in Auckland in 16 months ago, mostly in private rentals, and around 85 per cent of them have remained in the houses.
There are already 3700 people on the waiting list for social housing in Auckland, although this excludes many homeless because they have not sought help or contacted authorities.
Some of those counted by volunteers last night were also asked to complete a survey. Because many had never come into contact with social services, little was known about their lives.
There has been criticism from some housing advocates that the $375,000 cost of the head count would be better spent directly on housing or support.
Goff responded: "I can absolutely assure you that we won't be out there in the cold and wet doing it for fun or because it serves no purpose.
"You only get your policy-making right it it's informed by the data you have to tell you what the scale and the nature of the problem is."