January is an important month for human services organizations that work with individuals experiencing homelessness. Every year, on a night late in January, the point-in-time count is held all over the country by local or regional planning organizations that coordinate efforts to end homelessness.
The point-in-time (PIT) count is meant to give a snapshot of homelessness in the community and to provide an idea of the scope of homelessness in America. Historically, however, methods for conducting the count, and implantation of tools and resources, have varied widely, leaving gaps and inaccuracies in the data.
Only within the past few years have methodologies and standards been implemented to ensure a more valid and reliable PIT count.
This year, CCEH’s Outreach Services Coordinator, Connor Spern, and 15 other advocates from the homeless service community in Concord gathered together weeks before the PIT count date—this year scheduled for 6am to 6pm on January 26th—to coordinate logistics, schedules, and procedures.
The PIT count itself is a survey that includes anonymous information about an individual and where they were staying on the night of January 25th. The count includes data for sheltered people (those staying in our Emergency Winter Shelter, on someone’s couch, or in local hospitals) as well as unsheltered people (folks staying in tents, cars, or built structures around the city). Information such a date of birth, household composition, length of time they’ve been experiencing homelessness, and disability information are all recorded.
The data from the point-in-time count is used to track trends at a large scale—both locally and nationally—over periods of time. The results of the PIT count are reported each year to Congress in the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR). Published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the AHAR is typically published a year after the PIT count is conducted, and is often used to inform decisions about homelessness funding, policy recommendations, and research.
Unlike in years past, this year individuals conducting the PIT count were encouraged to utilize data from up to five days prior to the PIT count date. For staff at CCEH, this came as a helpful tool in providing more thorough and accurate data.
With many of the larger encampments around Concord being broken up recently, people have become more spread out and therefore harder to find than in years past. Using data from January 20th until the 25th meant the outreach team felt more confident this year that more individuals were included in the point-in-time count.
Connor expects that the PIT count numbers this year will be higher than in years’ past. She notes that an increase in the numbers could mean more people are experiencing homelessness, but it also is a reflection of a more accurate collection of data.
As CCEH’s Outreach Services Coordinator, Connor also notes that, “the PIT count is the ideal of what outreach should look like every day; it’s the single most important outreach day of the year. The coordination of effort around PIT count is ideally what outreach should look like every day, if we had the person-power to do it. A really focused effort to connect with as many people as possible, and better understand their situation.”
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