Annual Point in Time Count of Homeless Individuals and Families

Unsheltered homeless people are an important sub-population. Their needs must be accommodated in any strategy designed to reduce homelessness. One important way to accomplish these goals is by taking a precise count of the homeless people who are found on the streets, in abandoned buildings or in other places not meant for human habitation. Collecting good data about this group is essential to understanding the causes of homelessness and designing effective responses. Annual data collection is of vital importance in tracking progress toward the reduction of homelessness.

Each year, in the last week of January, Coalition staff conducts a “Point-In-Time” survey of the local homeless population. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of funding, the Federal government uses these single-day counts as a tool to survey the local condition. The staff of the Coalition meets this requirement by taking a physical count of the homeless individuals they can find on that day, sharing the results with agencies and volunteers throughout the Northern Panhandle region.

Staff and volunteers visit places where homeless people are known to gather. They interview people that utilize non-shelter services, such as soup kitchens and drop-in centers, and count those who self-identify as an unsheltered homeless person. Volunteers also interview each individual or household that they identify during the point-in-time count.

The Point-In-Time survey form is completely anonymous and identifying indicators are used only to avoid duplication. Participation by the homeless is voluntary and, as a result, some of the questions go unanswered. While surveyors ask respondents to answer the questions as honestly and completely as they are able, they do not make any demands.