In January, more than 360 volunteers ventured out for this year’s Point In Time Count, a federally required count of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. The count traditionally takes place overnight, from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., when people who are unsheltered are most likely to settle down for the night.

The count kicked off in Love Park, where a crowd of volunteers and City staffers, as well as federal and City officials, gathered in the chilly, occasionally drizzly weather in teams and enjoyed food trucks, snap photos, sip hot beverages, and enjoy the upbeat music of DJ She’J Qdee before heading out to count.

“It was inspiring seeing the sheer number of Philadelphians who volunteered their time to help make this year’s Point In Time Count a success,” said Dave Holloman, Executive Director of the Office of Homeless Services. “They brought so much energy to the experience and reinforced our city’s commitment to those who need our services.”

A pre-Count kickoff hosted by local motivational speaker Michelle Snow included supportive words from Holloman, HUD Chief Financial Officer Vinay Singh, and OHS Young Adult Leadership Committee (YALC) Co-Chair, Jayda Alexander.

“The Young Adult Leadership Committee is made up of many youth with lived experience, and we can relate to the struggles our unsheltered population is facing,” said Alexander. “Taking this time to connect with both adults and young adults facing homelessness is impactful for us all.”

The speakers were joined on stage by Managing Director Adam Thiel, U.S. Housing & Urban Development representatives, Senior Advisor for Strategic Engagement, Dr. Ruth Jones Nichols, and HUD Regional Administrator, Matthew Heckles.

“We are so grateful to every official who came to support this year’s Count – but even more grateful to the volunteers who journeyed out to make human connections with men and women facing unsheltered homelessness,” said Holloman. “The Point In Time Count is an excellent opportunity to ensure that we are receiving the right amount of aid to provide the support needed in our city but making that human connection and reminding folks that there is help available is another crucial part of this annual event.”

As many as 47 teams gathered and fanned out across the city to conduct the overnight and youth Counts. They traveled to the various locations on their respective zone maps, which indicated previously identified “hotspots” where people who live on the streets tend to gather. Once teams noticed someone who appeared to be living on the street, team members approached and asked permission to survey them.

Counters, following training provided by OHS, asked a series of questions of everyone they encountered who agreed to participate in the survey. They collected such data as their name, age, ethnic or racial identity, and other demographic information. Counters also explored whether they had experiences with mental health, disabling conditions, how long they’ve lived at that street location, their homelessness journey, and more. Each survey took between 10 to 12 minutes to complete.

This year, volunteers used an encrypted link, accessible via a QR code, to record and submit responses. The data was then directly uploaded to an OHS-developed Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).

“The use of technology makes administering the survey easier and enhances data analysis possibilities,” said Beth Gonzales, Deputy Director, Policy, Planning, and Performance Management. “It also helps us assess the interest in and perceived value of using technology to enhance the PIT count experience.”

Following the overnight PIT Count, volunteers conducted the Youth Count, which targets youth experiencing homelessness, at 2 p.m. on January 25.

A report of the 2024 PIT Count results will be available in the spring. In the meantime, previous years’ PIT Count reports are available that provide a look at who, and how many people have been affected by homelessness in Philadelphia.

See earlier Point In Time Count reports from 2022 and 2023.