Point in Time Counting is the method used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to determine how many people are experiencing homelessness on a given night in the United States. Point in Time data is collected by volunteers recruited by HUD. It has become one of the main sources of data referenced by policy makers, politicians, and stakeholders at organizations working with people experiencing homelessness. This data informs policy and plays an integral role in the construction of the political narrative of homelessness. This year, President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, joined point in time volunteers in San Francisco. CLICK HERE to read the ThinkProgress.org article on McDonough’s presence. I think it is both politically savvy (a great photo op for McDonough) and policy-practical (a great opportunity to observe data collection that informs policy in action) to include policy makers and politicians in the PIT counts.
However, I am curious if PIT counting is the most effective data collection method? Is it reliable? Is it really safe to say that chronic homelessness decreased or increased in a given YEAR based on data collected in the time span of ONE night? While PIT counting is positive in that it draws attention to homelessness and the problems faced by the chronically homeless, I wonder if it should be so influential? What other methods could be employed to paint a more accurate picture of homelessness in America in a given year? Ideas, anyone?