The January 2024 PIT Count is Right Around the Corner and You Can Help. Here’s what to know.
The Point-in-Time (PIT) Count is a count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. HUD requires that all Continuum of Care Programs (CoCs) conduct this annual count of people who are unsheltered and those who are sheltered in emergency shelter, transitional housing, and Safe Havens on a single night – in other words, the number of people experiencing homelessness at that point in time. A count focused on youth ages 18-24 will also take place the following afternoon to shed light on the younger community experiencing homelessness.
Each count is planned, coordinated, and carried out locally using a HUD-approved methodology. Communities across the country conduct the count and then share this data with HUD to help identify homelessness trends, gaps and needs throughout local communities and the nation. That data also helps us shape housing and supportive services here in Philadelphia.
“The PIT tells us data elements about those experiencing homelessness such as race, gender, disability status, veteran status and age. Plus, it tells us where people are staying and how long, and whether the strategies we are using to end homelessness are working,” said David Holloman, Interim Executive Director of the Office of Homeless Services. “The data also shows the impact of citywide efforts to address housing affordability, health outcomes, poverty, racial disparities, as well as to increase income, access to mainstream benefits, and more.”
There are certain limitations to the information gathered. For example, the PIT count does not generally capture people who are staying a few nights with a relative but must leave, or youth who are couch-surfing.
“The count is designed to put a number to those living in emergency housing and those living on the streets. We learn a lot from the count, but of course it doesn’t tell us everything,” said Marybeth Gonzales, Deputy Director, Policy, Planning and Performance Management at the Office of Homeless Services. “It’s one night, and one data source, that helps inform our work by identifying trends and needs. It’s true that it’s not precise–but the more volunteers we have to help, the better chance we have at getting a more accurate number.”
In order to maximize the data collected, OHS and its partners rely on volunteers to help with the PIT count. We have event volunteers who assist with event logistics, team lead volunteers who lead their teams the night of the count in their designated zone, and counters.
Volunteers meet for orientation and training based on the role for which they volunteer. Team leads and Counters will meet in advance, learn about the zone they will canvass and review the survey questions they will ask on the night of the count.
“The overnight count kick off starts at 10 p.m. Teams usually go out at 11 p.m. and, depending on engagement with individuals in their designated zones, will finish around 2 or 3 a.m.,” said Gonzales. “It’s voluntary for people to complete a survey with a volunteer, but we give incentives to those who participate. In addition, this year we will give out hygiene kits to all we encounter.”
With our partner agencies, outreach team and input from people with lived experience, OHS identifies all the hot spots where people experiencing homelessness bed down and make sure to go to these locations. Teams canvass the entire city, including transit systems underground, encampments, airport – but never abandoned buildings or unsafe environments.
“If you are interested, join us! If you volunteer as an individual, you will be welcomed with open arms and meet others who care about addressing homelessness. You can also volunteer with friends, family members, or co-workers,” said Gonzales. “We will train you so you are prepared and have a learning experience. meet fellow Philly residents, and help us capture important information needed to address the needs of those experiencing homelessness.”
This year, the count kicks off January 24 at 10 p.m. in Love Park. Volunteers will gather again at 2 p.m. on January 25 to conduct the youth count. All volunteers will get a beanie, and we will have food/drinks for volunteers, speakers, and refresher training on site before teams go out and canvass their designated zones. You may request to be placed in a group with fellow colleagues, friends, or family, who also register to volunteer.
Want to join us? Get more details and register today!