Each year, Pierce County’s Human Services Department participates in a nationwide effort to determine how many people are experiencing homelessness within each community; this effort is called the “Point-in-Time” (PIT) Count. On January 28, 2018, Pierce County conducted its annual PIT Count, a process that enables participants to talk with people and learn more about their homelessness. This year 1,628 homeless persons were counted on that one night within our County.
The PIT Count is a snapshot that captures the characteristics and situations of people living here without a home. The PIT Count includes both sheltered individuals (temporarily living in emergency shelters or transitional housing) and unsheltered individuals (those sleeping outside or living in places that are not meant for human habitation).
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Washington State Department of Commerce require communities to conduct these one-day counts annually. The information is collected to design and fund programs that help people re-establish housing and access support services to keep their housing.
The PIT Count happens the last Friday of every January, and is carried out by volunteers who interview people and ask where they slept the night before, where their last residence was located, what may have contributed to their loss of housing, and disabilities the individual may have. It also asks how long the individual has been homeless, age and demographics, and whether the person is a veteran and/or a survivor of domestic violence. This year, more than 300 volunteers fanned out across Pierce County, talking with people in places like encampments, overnight and day shelters, meal sites, libraries, and special events like Project Homeless Connect. Perhaps you volunteered; if so, thank you very much!
The County made some changes to the process this year. They counted people during the early hours of the morning—from 1:00 am to 5:00 am. They included an observation count of people in encampments who preferred not to participate in a survey. And they replaced their old paper surveys with a mobile app that gave them real-time, consistent data entry. These changes resulted in a more accurate picture of homelessness in our County.
Like all surveys, the PIT Count has limitations. Results from the Count are influenced by the weather, by availability of overflow shelter beds, by the number of volunteers, and by the level of engagement of the people being interviewing. Comparisons from year to year should be done with those limitations in mind.
Please visit the County’s PIT Count website to view an infographic and presentation highlighting this year’s results, and to explore the full dataset.