Starting next week, communities will be going onto the streets and into shelters to find all of those experiencing homelessness in their areas. There are a few reminders HUD wanted to provide as you go into this count.
- 2017 is the baseline year for counting youth. Communities have been working hard to determine how best to identify youth in the Point-in-Time (PIT) count process. Please remember that the efforts to count youth need to be in the same timeline as your general PIT count. HUD views this as one count but communities will be engaging in unique ways to identify youth (as well as other populations like veterans).
- Communities should verify information whenever possible. There is a wealth of data available and communities should leverage that to generate the most accurate count. This is particularly important when you have data for a sample approach or data from interviews. If you have the capacity, there is great value in checking responses given to data already collected in HMIS. For veterans, communities can work with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) staff to help identify veteran status. VA is ready to mobilize resources at the local level to support Continuums of Care with verification and is encouraging its programs to be a part of this effort. Be aware of the limitations of your verification system. For instance, the VA tool SQUARES is a great tool that is available at no cost to determine if a person has already received VA services. A person identified in SQUARES should be counted as a veteran, but it does not explicitly state that the individual identified is eligible for VA services. Communities are encouraged to contact the local VA to determine VA healthcare eligibility status.
- The PIT count is a useful process for verifying information on local By-Name-Lists. It helps communities understand if there is anyone missing from the list. While the By-Name-List does not replace the PIT count, it can be a wonderful planning resource for understanding where people experiencing homelessness are likely to be found and who they are.
- For communities that use sampling techniques, you need to ensure your sample is a good representation of the homeless community. Verify that extrapolation does not contain old assumptions about the nature of persons experiencing homelessness in your area. Check to see if your extrapolation is biased towards any factor due to the way the sample was collected or the extrapolation was performed. For instance, some communities may have special outreach for veterans and may have a bias towards sampling in areas where veterans are sleeping on the PIT count night. That may result in overrepresentation of veterans experiencing homelessness.
We at HUD are grateful for the massive effort you put forward. Your efforts are not in vain. This data is meaningful nationally and we hope it is equally meaningful to you locally.