Giving Compass' Take:

• "Point-in-Time"  Count is a one-night survey that volunteers conduct to count the number of homeless individuals in a city. Those numbers are then reported to the Department of Housing and Urban Development so that it can determine the amount of funding for homeless communities. 

• How can donors play a role in supporting the volunteers that conduct the surveys?

• Read about the five takeaways from the 2018 homeless count. 

We and a group of other Urban Institute researchers volunteered for the “Point-in-Time” (PIT) Count in January, joining hundreds of volunteers and service providers in more than 300 communities around the country. We hit the streets to count the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, part of a larger effort to count all people experiencing both sheltered and unsheltered homelessness.

The data collected are reported to the US Department of Housing and Urban development (HUD) to produce an Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. This report helps determine how much funding communities will receive and is a benchmark of progress on reducing homelessness.

HUD estimates that over a year, more than 1.4 million people experiencing homelessness received services from emergency shelters and transitional housing programs.

Conducting a wide and consistent assessment of people experiencing homelessness depends on teams of service providers and community volunteers. To be as comprehensive as possible, service providers cover the count of people staying in shelter the night of the count while volunteers help cover everywhere else. These are spaces not meant for habitation but where people may be sleeping, like cars, abandoned buildings, parking garages, or on the street.

Being a volunteer means spending the night (well into the early morning hours) talking to people who may be experiencing homelessness. We were trained to administer a short survey that included demographic, health, income, and housing-related questions.

As a volunteer who doesn’t often engage with people experiencing homelessness, the PIT Count can raise sensitivities about how to engage with people respectfully, check our assumptions, and approach the sensitive and personal survey questions with awareness.

Read the full article about volunteers helping conduct homelessness survey by Claudia D. Solari and Olivia Arena at Urban Institute