Annual Homeless Point-in-Time Count
Homelessness is ultimately about people and the challenges they face. But for one day a year, homelessness becomes about the numbers. Every year, during the third week of January, the Upper Valley Haven takes part in the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count of people who are experiencing homelessness. This count is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for all communities nationwide that receive federal dollars to serve homeless individuals and households to comply with federal regulations and requirements. It also helps to identify areas of need, measure, and monitor trends in homelessness, and support the communities’ needs when applying for funding.
“The goal of the Point-in-Time count is to have an annual ‘snapshot’ of all the individuals and households in Vermont who are literally homeless,” explains Executive Director Michael Redmond. “HUD defines this as persons who are staying in shelters or streets, cars, and other places not meant for human habitation on a single night during January.”
Each count throughout the state is planned, coordinated, and carried out locally with the support of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH). “We reach out to local police departments, schools, and town clerks,” adds Renee Weeks, Director of Shelter and Clinical Services and co-chair of the VCEH. “We try to count everybody in the PIT. But we know that the count doesn’t give the whole picture of homelessness. For instance, it doesn’t include people who are couch surfing, who could be asked to leave at any moment.”
Despite its limitations, Renee stresses the importance of the PIT count. “The U.S. Congress should know how many people are homeless so they can take action at a national level to make ending homelessness a priority. The Point-in-Time count identifies how many young people, families with children, and veterans are homeless. Different populations require targeted solutions and coordination of services. The count also helps local communities plan services and programs to appropriately address local needs, measure progress, and identify strengths and gaps in a community’s current homelessness assistance system.”
The Haven was active in this January’s PIT as it has been every year. For us, even on this night when homelessness is a number, we recognize the humanity of every person counted. We know their names, their life stories, their hopes for the future, and their challenges. Throughout the year, we work with every person and family to help them become securely housed so that next year, the number that is meaningful to them is their address.