Problems with Point-in-Time Count Persist

Point In time count

The annual Point-in-Time count required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) helps determine funding, but faces regular criticism. According to an ABC News analysis, methods and resources used to establish numbers vary widely from community to community, resulting in inconsistent and misleading reports, that even HUD admits greatly underestimate the number of people experiencing homelessness.

For example, funding requires the count take place on a specific date in January, which misses those who temporarily bunk with friends or family in an effort to escape the cold. Besides the date, few other standards exist, so organizations and communities end up gathering the data in various ways, both across jurisdictions, as well as from year to year, making it challenging to draw meaningful data and trends from it. In 2017, the National Homelessness Law Center published a report estimating that the true scale of homelessness ranges from 2.5 and 10.2 times more than the Point-in-Time count suggests and included some recommendations to improve it.

Several years later, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) made similar recommendations. In a recent interview, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said, “It's not an exact science,” and admitted the different methodologies cause problems. She also said that HUD is evaluating ways to improve the process, noting that the agency does “believe that there are some better ways to do it.”

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