Making Your PIT Count More Useful to Local Providers

written by naehblog
January 24, 2013

Today's guest post was contributed by Jake Maguire, Communications Director for the 100,000 Homes Campaigna national movement coordinated by Community Solutions of communities working together to find permanent homes for 100,000 of the country’s most vulnerable homeless individuals and families by July of 2014.

This week and next, volunteers across the country are canvassing their communities to count the number of people sleeping in shelters and on the streets. But many communities are doing much more than that-- they are combining legally mandated “point-in-time” (PIT) counts with efforts to survey, identify, and gather crucial data on each individual person experiencing homelessness in their midst. These communities are all participating in the 100,000 Homes Campaign, and they hope to do more than just count their homeless neighbors-- they want to learn their names, assess their needs, and identify specific services and resources to help them off the streets permanently.

We can’t end homelessness without knowing every person on our streets by name and learning what services, subsidies and supports will help them access and maintain permanent housing. Federal aggregate data is important to help us accurately identify the national scope of homelessness, but local organizations also need much more specific data to house their homeless neighbors quickly and efficiently.

Over the last three years, more than 80 communities participating in the 100,000 Homes Campaign have gathered this information by conducting something known as a Registry Week to survey their homeless neighbors and identify the most vulnerable among them. Over three consecutive mornings, volunteers methodically canvass the streets in the predawn hours to ask every person they find sleeping outside to complete a survey called the Vulnerability Index. The resulting information is used to create a by-name and -photo database that can help service providers determine the health and social needs of individual people and the appropriate services and subsidies available to end their homelessness. Most homeless people who are approached by volunteers agree to provide this information and to sign a waiver allowing it to be shared with local service providers. Communities employing this method have already found permanent housing for more than 28,000 of the people they have surveyed.

HUD permits communities to satisfy their federal point-in-time count requirements by conducting a registry week, and last year, 15 communities did so for the first time.

One such community is Shreveport, LA, which chose to integrate a Registry Week with its PIT Count in an effort to make the count more useful to local service providers.

“Before we did a Registry Week, we didn’t use our point-in-time count information,” Christa Pazzaglia, Executive Director of local CoC HOPE for the Homeless, noted at the time. “It was just something we had to turn in to HUD.”

Since integrating the local PIT count with the Registry Week methodology, things have changed. Today, providers in Shreveport are working to house their chronically homeless neighbors from a shared list that identifies and flags the most medically vulnerable among them as well as highlighting the social and demographic factors that make various individuals eligible for particular housing subsidies.

This year, the number of communities integrating their local PIT counts with a Registry Week has doubled to over 30, including Baltimore, Indianapolis, Salt Lake, Tampa and nearly a dozen cities in Los Angeles County.

To learn how your community can integrate a Registry Week into its next PIT count, download this free toolkit from the 100,000 Homes Campaign.

You can also listen to this free webinar with testimonials and firsthand advice from communities who have adopted this joint methodology.

"Homeless and Cold" photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon's photo stream.