Point-in-Time (PIT) counts are estimates of sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations on a single night in January. The counts are conducted by Continuums of Care (CoCs), often with the help of community volunteers. In addition to estimates of the number of people experiencing homelessness, they include information about their basic demographic characteristics such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, household type, veteran status, and whether they meet a definition of chronic homelessness.
The methodology used to complete the count varies by CoC, as each develops its own approach based on capacity and geography. HUD publishes guidance on methodologies for counting people in unsheltered locations and has produced surveys to help communities improve the accuracy of the counts.
CoCs are required to conduct annual counts of the sheltered population and counts of the unsheltered homeless population every other year. The PIT count coincides with Housing Inventory Charts, in which CoCs collect data on the number of beds and units available for people experiencing homelessness on that night, including permanent supportive housing. These estimates are compiled, reviewed, and published in the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR), along with compilations of Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data that describe sheltered homelessness over the past 12 months.
In January 2016, 403 CoCs across the country conducted PIT counts. While the unsheltered PIT count was not required in 2016, 345 CoCs (86% of CoCs submitting a sheltered count) submitted an unsheltered count as well.