A Letter Regarding the 2015 Point-in-Time Count

Friends,

The recent release of the “2015 Vermont Point-in-Time Annual Statewide Count of the Homeless” has elicited conflicting coverage in the media and left some confusion among advocates, policy makers and the general public as to what the numbers mean.

The 2015 Count identifies as fully as possible those Vermonters on one night in January who are:

  • Without shelter at all,
  • In places deemed unfit for human habitation,
  • In emergency shelters,
  • In hotel rooms paid for with private or public funds, or
  • In transitional housing.

The data is amassed in accordance with definitions from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), so that there is assurance that jurisdictions around the nation are identifying the same population of people. Organizations in Vermont have worked carefully together to achieve a credible count. The definitions are consistent over the last several years, so data can be reliably compared over time.

It should be noted that the Point-in-Time Count offers a snapshot of how many people are homeless on a single night, using the HUD definition of homelessness noted above. The Count does not give a full picture of how many individuals and families are homeless over the course of a year. It does not collect information on those precariously housed, doubled up with friends and family, or couch surfing. In particular this means that many families who have no permanent housing but who are committed to protecting their children were not counted. The national estimate is that 75% of vulnerable children are not included in this count because they live in doubled-up situations.[1]

Weather conditions, local volunteer and stakeholder participation should also be taken into account when evaluating the data.

Lastly, in advance of the Point-In-Time count HUD released this statement to communities, which we should all keep in mind: “All of us in the homeless services world have the same goal – to end homelessness. . . Use the PIT Count Report not to fan the flames about the homeless definition – but to help us get to a more mature discussion about affordable housing and how that would help us end homelessness, especially for families.”[2]

We hope this clarifies any misunderstandings around the Point-In-Time Count.  If you would like more information regarding the PIT or if you wish to discuss this further please contact either of the VCEH Co-Chairs.

Sincerely,

Sara Kobylenski, VCEH Co-Chair & Upper Valley Haven, sarak@uppervalleyhaven.org

Kathy Metras, VCEH Co-Chair & Northeast Kingdom Community Action, kmetras@nekcavt.org

[1]   America’s Youngest Outcasts: A Report Card on Child Homelessness, The National Center on Family Homelessness, November 2014, http://www.homelesschildrenamerica.org/home (quoting from Opening doors: Federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, Update 2013, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness).

[2]   SNAPS In Focus: A Discussion About the Point-In-Time Count December 12, 2014 – See more at: https://www.hudexchange.info/news/snaps-in-focus-a-discussion-about-the-point-in-time-count/