By Tyler Shade
Tyler Shade, CCRS Graduate Student, works with the Housing Alliance Delaware as a graduate research assistant. Tyler helped organize the Point-In-Time Count (PIT), an annual count of homeless. In addition to Tyler, Steve Metraux, CCRS Director, volunteered at this year’s PIT.
One night each year, Housing Alliance Delaware staff along with a host of volunteers canvass their communities in search of homeless individuals living there. This is known as the Point-In-Time Count (PIT). Volunteers canvass emergency rooms, shelters, and any sheltered or unsheltered areas homeless individuals are known to reside. The count provides a snapshot of homelessness within Delaware. The PIT Count is part of a national initiative to compile demographic, social, medical and other types of data to better understand the nation’s homeless population. The more understood the population, the more effective local nonprofits and government agencies could be when tailoring services and strategically focusing resources.
Planning for the Delaware PIT Count begins months in advance to ensure a smooth successful count. Logistics are the primary challenge. Housing Alliance Delaware, as the Continuum of Care lead agency, is the organization responsible in Delaware for facilitating the PIT. The PIT Count is wholly dependent on volunteers, thus the first step is attracting as many as possible. Volunteers are divided into teams based on their knowledge of local areas known to have significant homeless populations, and volunteers with PIT Count experience may become Team leads. Itineraries and location designations are created for each team based on need and homelessness population information. PIT teams are placed in each of Delaware’s three counties. Each county has a designated base camp, where Housing Alliance staff distribute materials needed for the PIT, such as care bags and surveys. Following the PIT Count, Housing Alliance enters the surveys into the Community Management Information System.
Homelessness is an issue within the state and across the nation. Most individuals seem to understand homelessness is a problem that needs to be solved, however many - myself included - may not fully understand the difficulties the homeless face. The PIT Count offers a snapshot of what the homeless must endure to survive. During the 2019 PIT Count, we canvassed bundled in as many clothes as we could wear, due to freezing temperatures that made being outside longer than ten minutes challenging - yet there are individuals in Delaware who must endure similar temperatures for a significant portion of each year. The PIT Count brings concerned volunteers face to face with the state’s homeless population to survey and collect data. While data collection is important, an underrated aspect of the PIT is the raw reality volunteers experience when interacting with the homeless. Homelessness is no longer a far-removed issue, but rather as volunteers interact and listen to the stories of the homeless they meet, they begin to gain a better understanding of what it means to be homeless.
For more information about this year’s PIT
For more information about Housing Alliance Delaware
For the full details of the PIT Survey methodology, see the HUD guide