ASR has worked with county organizations to conduct a Homeless Census and Survey since 1999 and is proud to have worked in counties throughout California and the country. All counties hoping to receive funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are mandated to conduct a count of all homeless persons living in their county during the last 10 days of January on a biennial basis, currently occurring during odd years. While some counties opt to conduct these counts themselves, others (including San Francisco, Santa Clara, and more) choose to work with ASR.
To conduct this count, ASR uses a method teaming community volunteers with currently homeless, paid guides. These teams, traditionally two members but sometimes more, are assigned a federal census tract and are responsible for covering all ground inside that area, taking note of any and all homeless persons they find. Teams conduct visual counts and do not engage with the folks they are counting. When possible, they are asked to record some basic demographic information, primarily involving gender, age and family status. These responses are added to a shelter count conducted the night before and, when combined with some information from the survey, give the number of homeless persons residing in the county during the time of the count. ASR’s method of pairing a community volunteer with a homeless guide has been recognized as a best practice by HUD.
After the count is completed, surveyors are selected from the homeless guides who participated in the count. The survey team conduct hundreds of surveys over the next couple of weeks, gathering important, in-depth information on the experiences of individuals experiencing homelessness. They are paid for conducting surveys and individuals surveyed are given incentives for taking the survey. Counties and local service providers can and do use this data to better inform their choices on what sorts of services to provide, where to provide them, and as a guideline on how to better address the needs of the homeless population.