Conducting an Effective Point-In-Time Count
Across the country, every Continuum of Care (CoC) conducts a Point in Time (PIT) Count at least once every two years during the last ten days of January. The Point in Time Count estimates the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons to provide a numeric snapshot of homelessness within the CoC. These figures are also used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to measure the performance of the CoC as part of the Continuum of Care Program Competition.
With limited time, volunteer resources, and general manpower, conducting an effective Point in Time count is crucial under such demanding conditions. Traditionally, agencies armed volunteers with pencils and paper surveys and assigned them to regions in their jurisdiction. Recently, more CoCs and organizations doing a census of their homeless populations have turned to digital PIT counts.
Get a jumpstart on planning your PIT count to maximize the time and manpower you have! Here are some tips for organizing an effective PIT count:
- Recruit volunteers early and often.
- Manage your volunteer counters with Smart Assignment, a tool in Outreach Grid
- Use legacy information about regions in your city or county to assign the appropriate number of volunteers to canvas popular areas
- Track how long each survey typically takes to continuously improve your PIT count for the following year
- Keep them simple! The simpler the survey, the cleaner the data.
- Include GIS information to specify exactly where the survey took place for future follow-up
- Use HUD model survey templates as a jumping point for creating your surveys: Model Sheltered Night of Count PIT Survey (PDF), Model Observation-based Unsheltered Night of Count PIT Survey (PDF), Model Interview-based Unsheltered Night of the Count PIT Survey (PDF), Model Service-based PIT Survey (PDF), PIT Count Youth Survey — Comprehensive (PDF), PIT Count Youth Survey — Addendum (PDF)
- Where possible, use digital forms to reduce time and prevent double entry/human errors in data.
Outreach Grid City Tools provides all the tools to manage your volunteers and track GIS and survey data for your PIT count. Our mapping features capture spatial and temporal information about encampments and encounters, enabling CoCs to improve resource allocation, dispatch service workers, and develop their program and Consolidated Plan.
Outreach Grid City Tools come bundled with the main platform for all of our partners and streamlines the collection of data from first contact to housing. It is also available separately to all government and non-profit agencies to use for free! With customizable surveys, workers and volunteers are able to quickly gather more comprehensive data that is not only easily available for analysis and submission to HUD but also facilitates the connection of the homeless to needed services.
Our platform is built from the ground up with CoCs in mind and completely mobile — available on the web, iOS, and Android systems. All of the data is stored in real-time and processed into a report when you need it!