IU Public Policy Institute
Conducting the point in time count for Marion County of those experiencing homelessness
Since 2007, I have partnered with the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention (CHIP) to conduct the point-in-time count of the homeless population (referred to hereinafter as the PIT count) in Indianapolis, Indiana. CHIP mobilizes, advocates, and empowers community collaboration towards ending homelessness. Each year the PIT count has been improved in some way—either in the methodology, the instrument, or both. The PIT count is a biennial requirement by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but in Indianapolis is conducted annually in January. HUD is charged with giving oversight to the dispersion of federal funding for programs that aid in combating homelessness. HUD defines someone as being homeless if they meet one of the following two conditions: (1) resides in a place not meant for human habitation, such as a car, park, sidewalk, abandoned building, or on the street (unsheltered); or (2) resides in an emergency shelter or transitional housing for persons who originally came from the streets or emergency shelters (sheltered). Those persons that are doubled up with family or friends are excluded from the count, as well as those who are currently under correctional or healthcare supervision and those in permanent supportive housing programs. For the Indianapolis PIT count, students from the IUPUI class, Do the Homeless Count, gather data from individuals experiencing homelessness who are in shelters and unsheltered. Students who survey the street population are always accompanied by an outreach worker or police officer who makes the initial contact. After the data is collected, I analyze it, with a graduate assistant and prepare a report for CHIP and the community. The length and nature of this relationship has fostered benefits for the community through providing trend data and analysis to policymakers, raising awareness of the issue of homelessness and homeless-serving agencies among the students, and providing volunteers for agencies during the class and after. Also, almost all homeless-serving providers participate in the PIT count, strengthening horizontal linkages. Several providers in the community use data from the PIT count on their websites, as well as in grant proposals to demonstrate the need in the community. As the community’s 10-year plan, Blueprint to End Homelessness in Indianapolis came to an end, CHIP coordinated a two-year process to develop a new strategic plan that builds on the efforts and outcomes achieved to date. This next community plan (The Blueprint 2. 0) includes a framework based on an engaged, invested, and active community; quality housing and service delivery; and a high impact, effective, and accountable system. Performance measures will be developed from the data in the PIT count. In addition, data are used to identify gaps in the system. CHIP and other homeless-serving agencies make presentations to the class, raising visibility of their programs.