Posts Tagged ‘Point in Time Counts’

12th June
written by naehblog

The following are remarks from the Alliance’s President and CEO, Nan Roman, regarding the U.S. Department of of Health and Human Services’  new framework to advance the goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020, as announced at a live webcast of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness meeting.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness applauds the commitment of Chairman Sebelius and the members of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) to end youth homelessness by 2020.  For far too long the plight of unaccompanied children and young adults has gone unaddressed.  Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness brought much needed attention to this particularly vulnerable population.  The USICH Proposed Framework for Ending Youth Homelessness is an important next step in laying out what the Federal government will do to achieve this goal.

The Alliance concurs with the major focus areas in the Framework:  sizing the population; identifying the key segments of the population; identifying solutions for each segment; and going to scale with the solutions for each segment.  We also support the outcomes of housing, connection, wellbeing, and education/employment.

Earlier this year the Alliance made a preliminary effort, using existing data, to estimate the size and segments of the population and examined this information for implications to policy and practice. Based on this framework as well as the USICH Framework presented today, the Alliance offers the following thoughts for the future.

Improving Data. The Alliance concurs that better data is essential to size and address the problem to scale.  Further, the experiences of both HUD and VA clearly indicate that setting numerical goals for ending homelessness, and driving performance toward these goals, works.  Without solid data there is no baseline and progress cannot be measured.  For all of these reasons, the need for better data is critical.   The Alliance recommends:

  • Merging RHYMIS and HMIS in 2012 and beginning to create the tools by which the increasing volume of youth data can be analyzed.
  • Requiring youth providers and local Continuums of Care to include youth in the HUD mandated point in time counts in 2013.  Any inclusion of youth will be an improvement.
  • Prioritizing research and evaluation of different intervention models for different subpopulations of youth to better inform resource allocation and targeting.

Serving High Need Youth. Approximately 40,000 youth have higher levels of physical and mental health problems and rates of substance use, as well as longer or more frequent episodes of homelessness.  These youth may spend long periods on the streets because they cannot or do not access programs that lack either the ability or the inclination to address their need for treatment.  While on the street, they face a host of challenges, including violence, drugs, and the risk of sexual exploitation.  HHS and HUD should incentivize youth-targeted programs to serve the most vulnerable youth by providing bonus points in the competitive granting process to programs that target “street youth” with a diagnosed/diagnosable mental health, substance abuse, physical and/or developmental disorder; and that clearly define the outcomes they will achieve.  Evaluation of these efforts, and practice collaboratives to share best practices are also recommended in order to advance successful approaches.

Mainstream Resources. Reunification with family remains the most practical and promising solution for a vast majority of homeless youth, particularly those under 18.   Additionally, the reason that families break apart is often poverty and eviction rather than conflict.  The homelessness system is not sized to address these needs.  As Opening Doors points out, mainstream programs such as child welfare, TANF, juvenile justice, and housing must assume much of this responsibility.  The education system has a critical role both in identifying risk and improving outcomes. Ending youth homelessness will require a clear plan for how mainstream programs will assume responsibility for these vulnerable youth.  HHS should encourage state child welfare agencies to include these minors as a targeted population in state plans, with goals for reducing homelessness.  HHS could also provide guidance as to how child welfare agencies can work collaboratively with RHYA programs to better serve homeless youth.  The Administration could set goals for other mainstream programs including affordable housing, TANF, juvenile and criminal justice, and mental health and substance abuse treatment to strengthen families and both prevent youth from becoming homeless and facilitate youth returning to their families.


Once again, thank you to Chairman Sebelius and the members of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, as well as the HHS Administration on Children, Youth and Families, for the commitment to end youth homelessness.   The Alliance looks forward to being a partner with the Administration on these efforts.


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16th April
written by Pete Witte

Map of Washington, D.C. Metro Area Homelessness, 2011Renowned urban thinker Anthony Downs wrote: “No jurisdiction is an island. Every suburb is linked to its central city and to other suburbs.” But intra-regional social and economic dynamics can sometimes make it appear as though there are actual oceans separating jurisdictional boundaries. The intra-regional social dynamic of homelessness is no exception.

Are there actually homelessness disparities within a region? If so, how large? I examine these questions in this article using the specific case of the national capital region.

But first, some background.

In The State of Homelessness in America 2012 (SOH12), we included an appendix with 2011 homelessness data for the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), as measured at a point-in-time. This includes data on nearly all of the metro areas in the country with populations over 500,000 people. Homeless point-in-time counts are reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at the geographic level known as the Continuum of Care (CoC), which is a local planning network designed to facilitate and encourage coordination of local efforts to address housing and homeless assistance. These CoC boundary lines are organized based on numerous local decisions of which the primary consideration should be to design a system that will most effectively meet the needs of the homeless population.

CoC boundaries may or may not reflect other demographic patterns or economic realities that shape how people interact in the physical environment. MSA boundaries, on the other hand, are determined by commuting to work/employment patterns and, therefore, are more likely to reflect the full human ecosystem. But the truth about MSA boundaries is that they are not representative of an incorporated jurisdiction, like a city or a town. Instead, MSAs are simply a statistical measurement instrument used by the U.S. Census and researchers alike to more effectively comprehend regions.

I’m going a long way to describe CoC and MSA boundaries here for two reasons. The first reason is so that I can say that coming up with estimates for metro areas required some spatial analysis work of matching CoC with MSA boundaries since point-in-time counts data are only reported at the geography of the CoC.

But the other reason I expounded on and on about the geography of the data was to show the value of work that derives estimates for metro area homelessness. And the value is that with such data we can have a more nuanced picture of the regional shape of homelessness in any particular metro area, especially when we take into account other factors, such as the general population. By taking population into account, we can look at rates of homelessness and make comparisons. More specifically, we can identify geographic disproportionality by comparing the rate of a single CoC to the rate of the whole MSA, or the rate between CoCs within an MSA. [1]

Data on the Washington metro area homeless population show that an estimated 13,205 people were homeless at a point-in-time in 2011, which ranks the area as the 8th highest total homeless population in the country. The area’s homelessness rate is 24 homeless people per 10,000 in the general population (~5.5 million people). Though ranking in nationally at number 8 in overall homeless population, D.C.’s homeless rate ranks as the 21st highest in the country. D.C.’s rate is lower than many major metropolitan areas, including Boston (ranked 20th), New York (13th), San Francisco/Oakland (12th), Los Angeles (6th), New Orleans (2nd), and Tampa/St. Petersburg (1st).

The more interesting data on Washington metro area homelessness, I believe, are found when you look at the geographic distribution of the population in the region (see the map above and table below). Nearly half of the metro area’s homeless population lives in the District of Columbia. Fairfax-Falls Church has 12 percent of the population, followed by Montgomery County (9 percent) and Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties (9 percent). Prince George’s County is the only other jurisdiction with at least 5 percent of the metro area’s total population. The remaining 15 percent of the population lives in the 6 other CoCs.

But when you take the general population data into account and look at rates of homelessness within the metro area, you can see the disproportionality among the jurisdictions. Four of the eleven CoCs in the Washington metro area have rates of homelessness that are higher than the national rate of 21 per 10,000. These four CoCs are: Arlington (22 per 10,000); Alexandria (30); Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary’s Counties (34); and the District of Columbia (109), which has a rate over 4 times that of the region as a whole and more than 5 times that of the nation as a whole.

The jurisdictions with the three lowest rates of homelessness in the region are: Prince George’s County (9 per 10,000); Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania and Stafford Counties (7); and Loudon County (5).

There are certainly a number of regional and CoC-level dynamics that account for the variation in the rates of homelessness in the Washington metro area—such as differences in housing affordability, jobs, etc.—but one thing that’s clear is that there is significant variation in the available data.

[1] One thing to note about the analysis of all the jurisdictional variation is that when making comparisons across CoCs, caution should be used as jurisdictions’ methodologies for estimating their population counts do vary. But, still, the rates of the point-in-time counts of people experiencing homelessness do provide us with a method for making reasonable comparisons.

30th March
written by Pete Witte

Well, it’s that time of year again when we start to see media stories come in from across the country that report the results of January 2012 point-in-time (PIT) counts. The Alliance is collecting and mapping these media accounts—or when/where available the Continuum of Care (CoC) reports—in order to provide a sense of the changing homeless situation in communities across the country.

Once again these collected reports are the basis of our new interactive 2012 Counts Media Map. In our map, we examine changes in overall homelessness (increases are noted by a red placemarker and decreases by a green placemarker). At the time of this article, we currently have 14 reports. Fifty percent of the communities (7/14) included in the map show that, locally, there have been increases in overall homelessness. The largest community featured to date is San Diego County, which has seen a 9 percent increase in overall homelessness, going from 9,020 people in 2011 to 9,800 in 2012.

We need your help!

Has a media source or a CoC in your community released a report that shows changes in overall homelessness between the January 2011 and January 2012 counts?

Please let us know. You can email me directly and I’ll be sure to add your community’s results to our interactive map.

The map provides a sense about how homelessness is changing in communities across the country. This is especially important amid current economic and budgetary conversations when local homeless, health care, employment, and other aid programs are increasingly at-risk of being cut.

It is also important to track changes this year as we know that communities’ Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP) resources are running out, if they aren’t already gone. As a matter of fact, if you have insight about how the end of HPRP resources is affecting homelessness in your community, let us know about that, too.

We know that the most recent national data as reported in our The State of Homelessness in America 2012 show that homelessness increased by 1 percent between 2009 and 2011. As the national 2012 PIT counts data are not available until later this year, tracking the 2012 PIT counts also provides an opportunity to gain a sense about how much progress is being made with ending homelessness at the federal level since 2011.

So, a big thank you in advance for keeping your eyes peeled looking for media stories and CoC reports to send to us.

We will add reports as they come in, so please keep on coming back to view our 2012 Counts Media Map.

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26th January
written by Kate Seif

Do you know how many alleys there are in the average city?  Well, ok, neither do I…but after last night, I have a much better idea.  Last night, instead of just bustling by these dark passages as I usually do, I traipsed up and down every alley I came across here in downtown DC.

As you’ve probably guessed, I was exploring these alleys, and every other nook and cranny of the Golden Triangle (which also happens to be, more or less, the Alliance’s neighborhood) as a volunteer with DC’s annual PIT Count.  Still relatively new to the field and working on federal policy here at the Alliance, I don’t often venture over to the practice side of the field.  I do, however, rely heavily on data and experiences gathered by practitioners every day to make the argument for increased funding for key federal homelessness programs.  Last night was my opportunity to match each number with a face.

After more than three hours and more than 30 people counted (yes, that’s unfortunately more than one person for every square block I covered in a neighborhood a stone’s throw from the White House), I was beginning to sympathize with the challenges that every homeless person faces, but particularly those living on the streets.  There were common themes: bureaucratic delays within departments like Veterans Affairs, long waits (years and years) for Section 8 or Public Housing, and a distinct lack of housing, affordable of otherwise, into which one might be placed. As Leroy, a man who made his home for the night in front of a Subway, noted to me, “I don’t need food kitchens or a place to shower, I need housing.”

It was frustrating for me, having these conversations with veterans, the elderly, parents disconnected from their children, and everyone else to know that the solutions are out there and the programs are, for the most part, in place.  We just need the right resources and investments to take them to scale to assist people like those I met last night.

Before we departed for the Count, Scott Gould, the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, spoke briefly about the importance of conducting these count. Deputy Secretary Gould hit upon the crux of the issue by saying, “good data leads to good policy.”  We couldn’t agree more! We think the staggering numbers of people experiencing homelessness in America speak for themselves.  We know what needs to be done. Now, more than ever, is the time to make the right federal investments so that next year, or the year after that, I have a very boring, quiet night counting.

To everyone that has helped or will help conduct counts in your community this January: thank you.  Our work here at the Alliance wouldn’t be possible without your efforts. But as we know, data collection is just the first step to addressing the problem.  Now is our opportunity to take what we’ve seen and learned to Congress to make a national impact. Here in DC last night, we had it easy – walking around a beautiful city in unseasonably warm temperatures, ending the night at home in our beds. But people like Henry, Lana, and Leroy don’t have it so easy. Simply put: sequestration and balanced budgets shouldn’t keep them, or anyone else I met last night, on the streets any longer.

Join us in 2012 as we work with Congress and the Administration to improve the lives of these and others across the nation.  Together, we can make the need for PIT Counts a thing of the past.

26th January
written by Catherine An

Here’s a smattering of clips about homeless point-in-time counts conducted this week. Did we miss your community? Tell us in the comment section below or shoot us a note on Facebook or Twitter!

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25th April
written by naehblog

Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released national data showing that the number of homeless people was essentially unchanged from 2009 to 2010.

The number, based on counts conducted by localities and states across the nation in January 2010 (called point-in-time counts), increased one percent, rising from 643,067 to 649,879. There was a three percent increase in the number of homeless people who were unsheltered and a 1.5 percent increase among families experiencing homelessness. Chronic homelessness declined by 1 percent, continuing a downward trend begun in 2005.

The 2010 PIT counts were the first to reflect the impact of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), the $1.5 billion stimulus-funded program aimed at curbing homelessness resulting from the recession. Housing inventory data released in conjunction with the PIT counts showed that, at the time of the 2010 PIT counts, the stimulus program was funding 19,842 homeless assistance beds.

In 2009, the Alliance projected that without effective intervention, homelessness would increase dramatically as a result of the recession. These numbers show that our investment in homelessness prevention and housing-based strategies averted what could have been an alarming increase in the number of Americans experiencing homelessness, according the to Alliance.

Still, the recessions’ full impact on homelessness has yet to be seen. In 2010 the Alliance report The State of Homelessness in America noted that certain key economic factors associated with homelessness were on the rise. These included the number of poor households doubling up, unemployment, and severe housing cost burden. Homelessness is a lagging indicator of economic tides and although the HPRP funds will be available to communities for another year, upward pressures on homelessness will also continue.

To access the 2010 HUD PIT counts data, please visit their website (PDF). You can look up state-by-state numbers here.

You can also find our press release on our website.

Image courtesy of Jenny Leigh.

7th April
written by naehblog

We want to know if your community counted homeless youth* in the annual point-in-time count this year.

Take our survey and let us know!

Every year, communities across the nation conduct point-in-time counts of people experiencing homelessness. The Department of Housing and Urban Development requires a count every other year as part of a community’s application for federal funds; many communities, however, conduct one annually of their own accord.

Capitalizing on the yearly ritual, the Alliance launched a youth count campaign, encouraging communities to include youth in their 2011 counts. We put out tools to help communities figure out how to conduct youth and the importance of including this oft-overlooked community.

So we want to know how you did! Did you count youth? How so? And how many?

Take our 5 minute, 5 question survey to let us know and if you have any questions (per usual), don’t hesitate to contact us.

* Youth are those 12-24 years of age.

3rd March
written by Catherine An

Yesterday, we talked about how help is long overdue for homeless youth. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: there is not enough information about this very vulnerable, often overlooked population.

In fact, there isn’t even a baseline count; that is, we don’t even really know how many homeless youth there are in the country.

This is why the Alliance is urging communities to include youth in their annual point-in-time counts. All communities are required to regularly conduct counts of their local homeless populations (required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development) and while “youth” is a line item, hardly any communities report youth numbers.

But we need to start counting.

Our own district is starting this year. The DC Alliance of Youth Advocates is conducting a homeless youth survey in mid-March in concert with the George Washington University and the Interagency Council on Homelessness. The effort is meant to gauge how many youth are experiencing homelessness in the District, how youth in the District become homeless, and what the community can provide with services and programs to assist youth out of homelessness and into stable housing conditions.

DC is taking an essential step forward. In order to solve a problem, we must first fully understand it – and conducting this kind of count can increase our knowledge on this important social problem.

How does the youth homelessness situation look like in your community? What steps are being taken to end youth homelessness? Are you available to help DC AYA and their partners conduct a youth count in mid-March? Let us know!

Photo Courtesy of NoneOther.

1st March
written by naehblog

Today’s post comes to us from Alliance research associate Pete Witte.

Earlier this year I wrote here about the annual point-in-time (PIT) counts being conducted across the country, and explained why the PIT counts are so important for helping us to understand homelessness and measure progress we’re making toward ending the problem.

Well, it’s that time of year again when local media stories announcing the results of their January point-in-time (PIT) slowly begin to sprout up in daily clips.

The Alliance is collecting and mapping these media accounts or, when available, the Continuum of Care (CoC) reports in order to provide a sense of the changing homeless situation in communities across the country. These reports are the basis of our new and—considering federal budget conversations where homeless programs are at-risk of being cut—timely, interactive 2011 Counts Media Map, which tracks reports on changes in overall homelessness (increases are noted by a red-colored placemarker and decreases are in green).

Amid current economic and budgetary conversations, providing a sense about the change in homeless counts across the country is important and timely, especially considering how homeless, health care, employment, and other aid programs are increasingly at-risk of being cut.

Tracking the 2011 PIT counts also provides an opportunity to get a sense on how much progress is being made at ending homelessness at the federal level, since the 2011 PIT counts will be the first count where both HPRP and Opening Doors have had the opportunity to affect communities.

And what’s more – we need your help!

Has a media source or CoC in your community released a report that shows overall homeless changes between the January 2011 count and the last January count? Please let us know; you can email me directly and we’ll be sure to add your community’s results to our interactive map.

Thanks in advance for your help!

A note about what we’re looking for: the Alliance mapped media reports back in 2009 – the last time that all CoC’s were required by HUD to conduct a PIT count. In that map, we tracked a number of different factors in the counts. This time around, however, we’re only interested in mapping overall population increases or decreases to present a visual picture of the state of homelessness in the country. For more information or clarity about our map, please email us.

28th January
written by Catherine An

Happy Friday, friends!

So, we could continue to flout the continued coverage of our newest report – The State of Homelessness in American (wink, wink!) – but I trust you’ve grown weary of our obsessive affection for that report. And rest assured, we’ll have plenty more posts about the report from friends and fans alike!

Homelessness news this week – no big surprise here – was all about community point-in-time (PIT) counts. (And snow.) Projected numbers, need for volunteers, implications on governments – local media covered the story from all angles.

The Review Journal in Las Vegas projected an increase in their count; the opposite was true according to WBUR-FM in Boston, which reported a dip in their numbers.

The community papers in Montgomery, AL and Detroit focused on the effort involved in reaching out to this oft-overlooked population. Our friends at the Los Angeles Times provided a detailed account of what it takes to conduct that sprawling city’s count – no easy feat by anyone’s standards.

And then there were the stories that put a human face on the annual task. The Dayton Daily News of Ohio profiled a 19-year-old young man who had aged out of the foster care system only to wind up on the streets. The Herald of Washington state focused on a volunteer who had once experienced homelessness himself who was now helping with the Snohomish County’s count.

And you know we were there to lend a hand for the DC count!

Members of the Alliance staff braved the post-snow cold to participate in this year’s PIT – and they weren’t alone! Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Scott Gould, and Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Barbara Poppe joined volunteers and advocates to conduct the DC PIT count. We got to mingle with celebrity pols!

And in case you’ve forgotten just why we do what we do – check out Pete’s post on the importance of the PIT count from a few days ago.

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