Lessons Learned Conducting Youth 'Point-in-Time' Counts

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If you belong to a continuum of care funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to serve the homeless in a particular geographic area, you may have already seen the new guidelines for your next “point-in-time count” of persons experiencing homelessness. Beginning in January 2013, continuums of care are required to record the number of youth ages 18-24 seen during their counts. The hope is that counting youth will result in more targeted services for the young and homeless.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness , in partnership with the National Network for Youth, DC Alliance of Youth Advocates and the John Burton Foundation for Children Without Homes, recently held a webinar to highlight lessons learned from previous youth-inclusive point-in-time counts. Here are several key themes from their presentations, which are available online.

  • Get youth involved. Youth experiencing homelessness can help with everything from identifying potential target areas to conducting on-site surveys. Agencies should pay youth by the hour to keep them motivated and use proper training and supervision to keep them safe.
  • Collaboration is key. Continuums of care should collaborate with service providers, youth advocates and school districts along with less obvious stakeholders such as local parks and recreation centers. For example, one agency in Nevada recruited volunteers from animal control because they knew their way around nearby rural areas.
  • Don’t discount agency experience. Point-in-time counts are designed to measure a community’s need, but they don’t always tell the full story. Use your past experience to point out any concerns you have about the numbers being collected.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness also has other resources to help you count homeless youth in your community:

"Counting and Surveying Homeless Youth"
"Counting Homeless Youth: Developing Key Partnerships"
"Counting Homeless Youth: City of San Jose Youth Census Survey"

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