On Jan. 22 and 23, Homeward conducted the Richmond region’s part of the statewide 2020 Point-in-Time (PIT) count. The PIT count is required during the last 10 days of January of every community that receives federal funding for homeless services. Regionally, we have measured a 10% increase from our January 2019 count but are still seeing a 17% decrease since 2017 and a 52% decrease in the single-day count since the peak of the homeless crisis in 2009.HomewardPointinTimeCount 6694 bw

The PIT count is the primary means to collect single day information on the housing and service needs of single adults and households with minor children staying in year-round, housing-focused emergency shelters or staying in cars. What is unique about PIT is that it has a methodology that has strengths and limitations that can be identified. This allows our community to use a consistent methodology over time. While not perfect, it is documented and comparable.

How the PIT count works

Individuals staying in shelters are counted by participating shelters in the Richmond metropolitan area.  These results are reported to Homeward using a bed-count form or a database report that documents the number of people who stayed in the shelter on the evening of the PIT count. 

Over a 36-hour period, people experiencing unsheltered homelessness are counted and surveyed through street outreach, a resource fair, and area meals programs conducted in the community.  Volunteers offer digital questionnaires to people staying outdoors, and individuals who choose to take the survey are counted. In some cases (e.g., outreach in the counties and reports from the outlying counties), a person may be counted without being surveyed; this is a professional judgment call based on whether it is likely that the person(s) would connect to other PIT sites and resources during the 36 hours of PIT activities.

After data from the surveys is entered, it is checked for duplication based on a combination of factors including the first two letters of the person’s first name, first two letters of the person’s last name, and birth date.

A response rate for the questionnaire is calculated based on the number of adults surveyed divided by the number of adults counted.  Note that while the true number of sheltered individuals is known, the true number of unsheltered individuals is not completely known. By partnering with street outreach workers, local law enforcement, and receiving input on locations of people sleeping outdoors from homeless service providers and the general public, we are confident that the count does connect with the majority of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.

Limitations and Strengths of PIT

Limitations of the PIT count include that survey data is self-report from clients. Another limitation is that the representativeness of the sample, particularly of the unsheltered population, is not complete; however, as mentioned, using the same methodology, in the same geographic area, during the same time of year, over time allows us to evaluate whether the overall number is going up or down. Other strengths include the ability to collect timely data and participation rates in the community of service providers.

We know that the need remains high. We have developed a graphic that puts the single-day count into context showing both the entries into our coordinated homeless services system on the day of the count and the almost 1,000 people in targeted housing programs on the day of the count.

Homeward is asking for your help in strengthening the PIT count! On Thursday, April 2nd, 6 p.m.-7 p.m., at the Richmond Main Branch Library (101 East Franklin St.) Homeward will host a PIT information and input session. The purpose of the event is to provide the public with an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of and offer input on PIT count planning and activities. Stay tuned for the release of a PIT stakeholder survey and updates on other community feedback sessions. 

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