It’s January. You know what that means…

written by Sam Batko
January 9, 2014

It’s that time of year again: January. This year’s January brought with it a polar vortex and multiple feet of snow for some parts of the country. And, like every year, January also brings with it HUD’s annual Point-in-Time Count (PIT Count).

Quick PIT Count 101: a PIT Count is a one-night, unduplicated count of every person experiencing homelessness in a community. HUD requires that communities count their sheltered homeless population every year. They require that communities count their unsheltered homeless population every other year, on odd numbered calendar years. Communities are to conduct their count during the last 10 days of January. If you’d like a little more background on PIT Counts, read this.

2014, being an even year, is not a mandated unsheltered count year. That means technically, a community could just report their sheltered census. Increasingly, however, communities are opting to conduct unsheltered counts every year. In 2012, the last year an unsheltered count was not mandated, 67 percent of continuums conducted and reported on their unsheltered population.

So, if you are like most communities, you are gearing up to count both your sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations. And, as it is already mid-January, you have probably already done the majority of your planning. If you’re already prepared, the rest of this post will just be a quick refresher and a basic checklist. I’ve also included links to references for more in-depth preparation.

HUD has a long book of guidance for counting the sheltered population. But, the highlights are:

  • Communities should report to HUD the number of people living in emergency shelters, including domestic violence shelters or any hotel/motel/apartment paid for by a public or private entity because the person is homeless; transitional housing; and safe havens;
  • Communities are also required to provide some details about these people—whether they are a veteran, chronically homeless, have HIV/AIDS, are an unaccompanied child or youth, and, optionally, whether a person is a victim of domestic violence.
  • Communities should NOT count people as homeless if they are living doubled-up with family and friends; in a single room occupancy, Section 8, Shelter Plus Care, permanent supportive housing, or are in private housing receiving temporary assistance through a rapid re-housing program; or are in a variety of facilities including mental health and substance abuse facilities, foster care, or criminal justice.

HUD has another long book of guidance on counting unsheltered populations as well as a variety of survey tools that communities can use to improve their unsheltered counts.

The last resources I will point you toward today are the Alliance’s resources for counting youth experiencing homelessness. Youth are particularly hard to capture in unsheltered PIT Count as they may congregate in different areas than older homeless individuals or may be on the streets at different times of the day. In 2013, the first year that HUD differentiated 18 to 24-year-olds in the PIT Count, only about 47,000 unaccompanied youth under the age 18 and ages 18 to 24 were reported with many, many continuums reporting zero, including some major cities.

Throughout January, we will be focusing on point in time counts on our blog and, in our next post on this issue, we will take a more in depth look at counting homeless youth.

Image from the the Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.