Planning for the 2011 Continuums of Care Point-in-Time Count on Homelessness

Continuums of Care (CoCs) across the country undertake community-wide efforts to collect information on the number and characteristics of individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires CoCs to complete this point-in-time (PIT) count at least every two years during the last ten days of January.

Why is the PIT Count Important?

Collecting good data on the number, characteristics, and service needs of individuals, families, and unaccompanied children experiencing homelessness is a critical component of local homeless planning and program development. Accurate data helps communities to:

  • Understand changes in trends among homeless populations;
  • Adjust the types of programs and services available according to need and use resources as efficiently as possible;
  • Justify requests for additional resources and/or programming modifications;
  • Comply with reporting requirements from HUD, other funders, and local stakeholders;
  • Raise public awareness about the issue of homelessness; and
  • Measure community progress towards preventing and ending homelessness.

Nationally, the PIT count process will be used as the primary data source for federal agencies to understand homelessness trends and track progress against the goals and objectives contained in Opening Doors, the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness. Additionally, the Congressionally-mandated Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) is prepared using PIT and Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data.

It is critically important that homeless service providers, whether HUD-funded or not, participate in planning for and conducting the PIT count. In particular, CoCs should be sure to reach out to providers serving homeless veterans and unaccompanied children to ensure the accurate and appropriate collection of PIT data for these two subpopulations. 

Resources

  • The Point-in-Time Count Methodology Guide will be useful in determining a process for collecting high-quality data on the number and characteristics of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in your community. HUD recommends that CoCs regularly review and refer to this guide to answer questions about PIT count preparation, implementation, and analysis.