Each year, the release of the national Point-in-Time (PIT) Count garners a lot of attention from the media. The PIT provides very important information – a snapshot – that captures not only how many people are sheltered on a given night but also how many people are in places not intended for human habitation.

In contrast to the PIT Count, the Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part 2 (AHAR Part 2) documents how people use homeless shelter and service programs over an annual basis. It tends to get far less media attention, although the data reveals a great deal that the PIT Count can obscure.

How Many Families Experience Homelessness?

Data from the 2020 PIT Count indicated that, on any given day, approximately 54,000 families resided in a homeless shelter program or in a place unintended for human habitation in 2020. Over the course of that year, according to AHAR Part 2, just over 132,000 families, comprising nearly 417,000 people, experienced a shelter stay as part of a family.

If one were to only look at the one-day count, it would appear as if the number of families experiencing homelessness changed very little between 2019 and 2020 because the number of families homeless on a given day remained approximately the same in both years. However, an examination of the annual data from those two years shows a very different picture.

The AHAR Part 2 annual data indicates that between 2019 and 2020, there was a 25 percent reduction in the number of families newly entering a homeless service program and a 29 percent reduction in families returning to shelter after exiting a homeless service program. Overall, the number of families that resided in a homeless service program declined by 16 percent between 2019 and 2020 as the reduction in entrants were offset by families staying in homeless service programs for a longer period.

Read the full article about family homelessness by Sharon McDonald at The National Alliance to End Homelessness.