For immediate release: Monday, Jan. 23, 2023
- Denis Theriault, Multnomah County, email@example.com
- Emily Roots, Washington County, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Claire Okeke, Clackamas County, email@example.com
- Katy Swordfisk, Portland State University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Media event details:
What: Media open house at the Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative’s Point in Time Count command center; observe operations on first day, with opportunity for B-roll and interviews with director Dr. Marisa Zapata
When: Drop in any time between 12-3 p.m., Wed., Jan. 25
Where: Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative offices at Portland State, 1600 S.W. 4th Ave., Suite 425A, Portland, OR, 97201
PORTLAND (Monday, Jan. 23, 2023) — Starting Wednesday, Jan. 25, outreach workers, service providers and volunteers organized by Portland State University’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative will undertake the tri-county region’s first fully integrated Point in Time Count of homelessness.
That integration — including a common methodology and analysis — is part of a larger effort to better coordinate services and collaborate regionally with shared information, guided by Metro’s Supportive Housing Services measure.
This year’s Count also demonstrates the region’s ongoing commitment to refining how homelessness data is collected and analyzed, and how it can be harnessed to better inform policy. Analysts will continue to incorporate information from by-name lists, among other innovations that either add to or expand on changes and lessons learned from previous Counts.
“This year’s Point in Time count reflects our values in creating a more comprehensive, data-driven response to this crisis,” said Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “This collaboration among our regional partners reflects our shared sense of commitment and transparency. It matches my vision and coincides with other calls to develop a regional Incident Command Center and encourage information-sharing among all of our partners.”
“The Point in Time count is one data point among many that highlights the need for housing in our community. I am proud of the collaboration between counties as we strive to ensure the count captures the complex array of needs in our region,” said Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington. “I am also appreciative of our many local partners including city partners, service providers, outreach workers, school districts, corrections officers and more who will come together not just on January 25, but every day, to serve people experiencing homelessness in our community and help them make the transition into long-term housing.”
“I’m grateful for Clackamas County’s hardworking staff and volunteers who come every year to survey our homeless residents and meet them where they’re at,” said Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith. “As our region comes together to address homelessness, getting better regional data to guide that shared work is more important than ever. This year’s first truly coordinated Point in Time Count is crucial for us.”
Every day and night through Tuesday, Jan. 31, surveyors will work to reach as many neighbors experiencing homelessness as possible across Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, asking them where they slept the night of Jan. 24.
Surveyors will also ask for vital demographic data that can be used to determine a fuller picture of who is experiencing homelessness — for example, their age, race and ethnicity, the length of time that they’ve been homeless, whether they have a disabling condition, and whether they are veterans or have experienced domestic violence.
Survey data will be joined with shelter and transitional housing census data from the night of Jan. 24 to create the full Point in Time Count.
Initial snapshot results from those combined data sets — broken out by each county, showing the number of people counted without shelter, in transitional housing or in shelter — will be released in the spring. A more-detailed report, prepared by the Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative in partnership with Portland State’s Population Research Institute, will come out later in the year.
This year, for the first time, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties are working in unison to launch their counts, contracting with Portland State researchers and a project manager, Focus Strategies, to create a shared methodology and analysis, a centralized command structure, and unified logistics around the recruitment and deployment of volunteers.
The 2023 regional Count will also build from, and refine, innovations and lessons that emerged from each county’s 2022 Count.
Every Point in Time Count is fundamentally an undercount — though the one-night snapshots that emerge from the Counts serve as a critical tool for understanding baseline trends among people experiencing homelessness.
Innovations in 2022 and 2023 will help to produce a more accurate snapshot of homelessness, including populations who might have been missed in previous counts but were nonetheless experiencing homelessness and accessing services.
Continuing work to better identify racial disparities in homelessness
Portland State is continuing and expanding work from past Counts to better identify and include culturally specific groups who were underrepresented in past Counts.
In Multnomah County’s 2022 Count, racial disparities were larger than in 2019, highlighting the need for more culturally specific services to directly address gaps, like those launched with funding from the Supportive Housing Services Measure.
The highest rates of overrepresentation in overall homelessness were found among people who identified as American Indian, Alaska Native or Indigenous, Black or African American, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
Real-life disparities are likely even higher than what was captured in 2022. Capturing these disparities is key to the ongoing work to better reach people in those communities.
By-name data from services lists will enhance Count’s accuracy for 2nd year
And, for the second Count in a row, for Clackamas and Multnomah counties, analysts will draw from existing by-name lists of people experiencing homelessness and receiving services. Those lists will supplement — and will be deduplicated from — the survey forms and shelter rosters that traditionally made up the Point in Time Count.
Using the de-identified by-name data in 2022 allowed the Count to include additional people experiencing homelessness who would not have been counted through surveys alone. The number of people added to the Count through this data exceeded the overall difference in unsheltered people counted between 2019 and 2022. The increase in people counted as homeless overall was primarily driven by an increase in people identified as unsheltered.
By-name data also provides additional information on disabling conditions and other demographic information tracked in the Count.
Federally required Count doesn’t tell the whole story
The federal government requires the Point in Time Count and prescribes the timeframe for the Count. While the outcome of the Count does not directly affect funding levels, conducting an accurate tally helps ensure our community remains eligible for federal funding for housing and homelessness services. (Those funds are separate from federal COVID-19 funding.)
The Count also provides a view of how the most vulnerable people in our community are faring, and helps guide policy decisions and budget allocations. But organizers and advocates also note the Count has limits and that its results can be misunderstood, in part because of the information the Count isn’t able to provide.
The Count, which is structured by the federal government as a one-night snapshot, isn’t designed to gather the following data points:
- How many people move into and out of homelessness over the course of a year. The extent of homelessness in the community isn’t static, and the number of people annually experiencing homelessness is larger than a one-night number.
- The community’s progress helping people back into housing.
- People who are doubled up, living temporarily with friends, family, loved ones or others. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development excludes those neighbors from the definition of homelessness that is used for the Count. Culturally specific providers tell us that people of color are underrepresented in the Count as a result.