Makin' It Count (PIT Counts)

A growing economic divide, soaring costs of living, and a housing inventory shortage have contributed to nearly 135,000 individuals experiencing homelessness on a given night in California. While the issue can seem overwhelming and complex, understanding and estimating the size and scope of the problem is critical to efforts to end and prevent homelessness.

In 2017, Point-in-Time Counts across California revealed:

  • 134,278 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in California
  • California accounted for 25% of all persons experiencing homelessness in the U.S. and nearly half (49%) of all unsheltered persons
  • Approximately 1 out of 10 people experiencing homelessness in California were unaccompanied youth under the age of 25; 8 out of 10 of these young people were unsheltered (Note: 2017 is considered the baseline year for data on unaccompanied youth)
  • While the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in California has decreased by 21% since 2009, homelessness among veterans increased by 19% in 2017
  • Homelessness disproportionately affects people identifying as Black or African American – 32% of Californians experiencing homelessness identified as Black or African American, compared to 6% of all Californians

So what is a Point-In-Time (PIT) Count?

Every two years, communities receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for homeless services are required to conduct a Point-in-Time Count on a single night during the last 10 days of January. This count produces an estimated number of people experiencing homelessness on a given night and provides demographic information crucial in our pursuit to understand and end homelessness.

Communities are required to document whether people enumerated on the night of the count were experiencing homelessness as individuals, as families, or as youth, and also whether they were residing in temporary shelter programs or sleeping on the streets, in tents, vehicles, abandoned buildings, or other places not meant for human habitation. In addition to basic characteristics such as gender, race, and ethnicity, data on special subpopulations are also collected. These subpopulations include veterans, families, unaccompanied youth under the age of 25, people experiencing chronic homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, and individuals living with HIV/AIDS related illnesses.

The result of this enormous, biennial undertaking – to count and characterize people experiencing homelessness in the United States – is captured in the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress. Collecting consistent data points across communities enables us to understand national trends and characteristics, while empowering Congress to make informed policy and funding decisions impacting our current capacities to address homelessness.

As communities prepare for the 2019 Point-in-Time Count, greater interest develops in collecting data beyond federal reporting requirements. Stay tuned! Part two of this blog series will explore this interest in depth. 

Print Friendly and PDF