KPCC, the public radio station of Pasadena, CA, published a news piece on homelessness in Los Angeles. (CLICK HERE to read or listen to the story…) The piece does an excellent job of highlighting the complexities of homelessness and showing how these complexities are obscured by stunted data collection methods such as PIT counts. The article shows how homelessness can become a reality for people who “do everything right” and end up with a few bumps in the road. The article also makes note of the importance of youth homelessness and explains how the data collected by Los Angeles County on homelessness often hides the amount of homeless children. Below is one illustrative graphic from the article.
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?
Click on the blue link above to read a fascinating, well-written and well-researched article on housing and homelessness. This article explores productive and not so productive ways (e.g. Camden, NJ’s heartless evictions) of increasing affordable housing prospects and assisting people experiencing homelessness.
Click on the link above to read the article “Campaign Aims To Open Doors for the Homeless”, by Pam Fessler of NPR. The article explores a program serving people experiencing homelessness in San Diego, CA. One of many poignant quotes from the article:
“The situation is dire. But those running the new campaign say it’ll cost more if they do nothing. They estimate that it costs about $25,000 a year to house a chronically homeless person, even with services like medical care. But it can be four or five times that amount if someone stays on the streets, repeatedly using things like the hospital emergency room.” (emphasis added)