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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Given the inherent safety risks of sending volunteers to collect data during the current public health crisis, the Sacramento City and County Continuum of Care (CoC) will formally request an exemption from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to opt out of participating in the traditional 2021 unsheltered Point-in-Time (PIT) Count this January.
The Sacramento region is currently under a new public health order that mandates firm stay-at-home protocols because of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Conducting the PIT Count in the traditional fashion – with hundreds of volunteers congregating and interacting with one another and our unsheltered populations – is both unsafe and infeasible.
The CoC and Sacramento Steps Forward (SSF) will seek a waiver from HUD to opt out of conducting a traditional PIT Count in 2021. This request is in line with at least 16 other communities around the state that are either requesting or that have already been granted waivers.
“We acknowledge that the PIT Count is a valuable tool for collecting data about our most vulnerable unsheltered community members,” said SSF CEO Lisa Bates. “We are doing our absolute best to adapt to the current environment while still finding innovative ways to use data to strengthen our overall system and response to homelessness. We are grateful for the many volunteers who have helped with this work in past years and we are excited about engaging with our community members when it is once again safe to do so.”
Although it is not required to conduct the next unsheltered PIT Count until 2023, the CoC approved a plan to assess the feasibility of conducting a traditional unsheltered count in 2022. At that time, conditions may be more conducive to holding a large community event to help collect detailed information about people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. SSF is looking forward to the opportunity to engage the community in a traditional count when it is safe and feasible.
Additionally, the CoC Board voted on Dec. 9 to partner with the Institute for Social Research (ISR) to examine existing data and to design sampling methods to estimate the number of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in our community.
SSF will work with ISR to analyze data from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), which captures information about homelessness in our community. HMIS data is collected throughout the year and aggregated into a By-Name List, a list of individuals experiencing homelessness in our community who are currently connected to homeless services.
This list is generated from the information entered by the more than 50 providers who are participating in HMIS and is the basis for the recently released Sacramento Homeless System Dashboard.
In addition to this analysis, a limited number of field surveys will be conducted by trained staff from several nonprofit agencies to help better understand the current state of unsheltered homelessness in relation to the By-Name List data.
Those survey results will help researchers determine the consistency of the HMIS data that already exists in the By-Name List and will help our organization better understand the gaps we need to improve upon.
Although SSF is not undertaking a traditional PIT Count, this effort will provide a better understanding of the unsheltered population, help identify ways to more efficiently obtain year-round data, and determine trends about who’s connected to homeless resources in the community.
While the unsheltered PIT Count usually culminates in the publication of a formal report by July of every count year, SSF does not anticipate producing a traditional report for 2021. Instead, findings will be used for the enhancement of ongoing system-level data about real-time unsheltered homelessness.
Any results of this research will be available as part of the periodic updates of the Sacramento Homeless System Dashboard.
Please see our FAQ for more information.
The CoC board and all of its committees meet regularly to discuss homelessness and regional solutions. You can find out more and get involved on SSF’s website.
About Sacramento Steps Forward
Sacramento Steps Forward is a nonprofit organization committed to ending homelessness in our region through collaboration, innovation, and connecting people to services. Walking side-by-side with our partners, we seek to provide people experiencing homelessness with the support and services they need to find stability and long-term housing. Since 2012, Sacramento Steps Forward has been the lead agency for Sacramento’s Homeless Continuum of Care.
About CSUS Institute for Social Research:
Founded in 1989, Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) is an interdisciplinary unit that harnesses the power of scientific research tools to address social problems. Their research and analysis expertise learned through the hundreds of projects completed for government agencies, nonprofit organizations and the academic community, provides the region with actionable information that can inform key policies and decisions.