For years, local service providers have railed against the use of the Point-In-Time count, a measurement of local homelessness taken every year in January, as the tool for understanding the prevalence of homelessness in the community.
“It’s just a horrible system, it could never be remotely accurate,” said Heather Sielicki, operations coordinator for White Bird Clinic.
True to its name, the PIT count is meant to capture how many people in the county are experiencing homelessness on an average day. Volunteers are dispersed around the community and ask people who appear to be homeless to take a brief survey, sometimes enticing them with bus passes or small gift cards. The PIT total depends on how many volunteers participate, where they go and people’s willingness to be counted — too many variables for an accurate count, Sielicki said.
To have a wider scope of homelessness in the area, local government and its nonprofit partners now are using the Homeless By-Name List, which tracks monthly people who are unhoused and who are receiving services from a number of agencies in Lane County. In 2019, the HBNL was piloted and found a total of 9,679 people accessed homelessness services in Lane County during at least one point in the year with a monthly average of nearly 4,000. In contrast, the 2019 PIT Count counted 2,165 homeless people in the county.