Improving Homeless Point-In-Time Counts: Uncovering the Marginally Housed

This article discusses improvements made to the methodology of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) point-in-time (PIT) homeless census. HUD’s PIT results are presented to Congress as official data for policy consideration. The PIT methodology, however, focuses on visible street homeless individuals and those in shelters while neglecting the “marginally housed” or less visible homeless who live in automobiles or temporarily stay with friends and extended family.

Being a hidden population, the marginally housed has been a traditionally difficult population to study. The HUD’s PIT count was replicated and additionally targeted the marginally housed to improve traditional methods of counting people experiencing homelessness. The PIT count was improved in two ways: (1) by extensively training counters, and (2) by using the personal networks of hundreds of counters to seek out the marginally housed. This paper does not claim to be an exhaustive count of all the marginally housed in the region, but it is an initial step in developing methodologies to include this hidden population when calculating the total population of people experiencing homelessness, the approach can also improve traditional homeless counts in other cities.

Publication Date: 
The Southern Sociological Society
Vol. 6
United States