Texas Homeless Network

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Unsheltered PIT Count Cancelled, But Our Work Continues

Unsheltered PIT Count Cancelled, But Our Work Continues

By: Kyra Henderson

Every year the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandates communities to conduct the Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, which aims to provide a snapshot of those experiencing homelessness over the course of one night. Not only is this a data-gathering initiative, but in many areas, it is an incredibly valuable community engagement and advocacy tool. 

This year, due to the pandemic, HUD announced that they were allowing for flexibilities around the count, including allowing areas to cancel their counts entirely. Many Continuums of Care (CoC’s) across the country made the difficult decision to cancel their unsheltered PIT count. While regions are still required to gather data for the sheltered count (those staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing), this cancellation means those residing on the streets, in their cars, in outdoor encampments, or other places not meant for human habitation, are not being counted. 

The Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care is one of the regions that has decided to cancel their unsheltered count. The Data Coordinator, Kyra Henderson, states:

“While we recognize the value and necessity for data on our unhoused neighbors, especially as we assess the impacts of COVID-19, we ultimately had to prioritize the health and safety of our volunteers and unhoused neighbors.”

In 2020, 637 volunteers, spread across 52 counties, interviewed more than 4,500 individuals experiencing homelessness. With the varying rates of COVID-19 in these 52 counties, it was determined that even limiting in-person interaction for the surveys would not be enough to sufficiently control the risks associated with conducting the count this year.

It is important to recognize though, the work does not end here. There have been long-standing critiques of the reliance on this once a year count, as it only has the ability to provide a snapshot. We urge our communities to use this instead as an opportunity to explore other ways you can organize, educate, advocate, and gather important data on the mission to end homelessness. 

        • Communities that diligently do homelessness outreach throughout the year report a decreased reliance on the PIT count data, as outreach data can demonstrate trends throughout the year. 
            • If your community participates in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), we can provide technical assistance to organizations to help them access and analyze this data.
        • Group of people standing in a circle on a city sidewalk with masks on talking
          If your community hasn’t already, developing a Local Homeless Coalition is a great way to build up community outreach initiatives throughout the year. Not only will this strengthen your volunteer force for the PIT count, but your homeless coalition can also work to have an ever present voice when it comes to local legislative priorities. 
            • To find out if your community already has a local homeless coalition or to find out how you can get involved, please visit the THN website.
        • For those communities that do participate in the count on a yearly basis, you can still use your previous count data to raise awareness and advocate. 
            • This is especially important for those regions that do not have homelessness outreach programs or access to HMIS
        • In order to truly make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring, it is important to recognize that local efforts can only take you part of the way. There needs to be statewide and federal buy-in when it comes to effective solutions. As folx with lived experience of homelessness, community leaders and, homeless sector staff, your voices are the ones that legislators want to hear. Your first-hand knowledge of the gaps and needs in your community are invaluable. 
          • While Texas Homeless Network does advocacy work at a statewide level, representation from individual counties matters. Your voices matter. 

Texas Homeless Network and the Balance of State team want to take the time to acknowledge and appreciate all of the hard work that our communities put into planning the count this year. While it has not turned out as we all hoped, the determination, diligence, and passion of our communities and PIT leads, in particular, does not go unnoticed. 

Special thank you to the members of: Angelina County Homeless Coalition, Atascosa County, Back Home Northeast Texas Homeless Coalition, Brown County Home Solutions Inc., Cameron County Homeless Coalition, Central Texas Homeless Coalition, East Texas Sheltering Arms Coalition, Colorado Valley Homeless Coalition, Comal County Homeless Coalition, Concho Valley Homeless Planning Coalition, Denton County Homeless Coalition, East Texas Human Needs Network, Ellis County Homeless Coalition, Gulf Coast Homeless Coalition, Hays County Local Homeless Coalition, Hidalgo County, Homeless Coalition of Brazoria County, Homeless Issues Partnership Inc., Johnson County, Kaufman County Homeless Coalition, Kendall County, Kerr County, Lamar County Homeless Coalition, Laredo Homeless Coalition, Matagorda County, Midland County, North East Texas Homeless Consortium, Odessa Coalition for the Homeless, South Plains Homeless Consortium, Southeast Texas Coalition for the Homeless, Texarkana Homeless Coalition, Texoma Homeless Coalition, Victoria Area Homeless Coalition, Waller County, West Texas Homeless Network, and Williamson County Homeless Coalition.


Unsheltered PIT Count Cancelled, But Our Work Continues
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