The most prominent theme that we observed at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference was the need for consistent and better data. In every workshop, this theme echoed as presenters urged service providers to get involved with their local Continuum of Care (CoC). As part of our blog series on lessons learned from the conference, we write about the importance of data and how you can get involved.
Why is data so important in the fight to end homelessness?
Data is one of the most important tools we have when it comes to ending homelessness because it allows us to have a confident estimate of the scale and scope of the problem. Once we know the magnitude of the situation we can be aware of the policy response and resources needed.
Data is also vital because it allows us to know what is and isn’t working. It also allows us to measure outcomes so service providers can be consistently informed and equipped with the most effective strategies for getting youth off the streets. Outcomes validate the importance of these programs in ending youth homelessness.
Approaches to get better data.
An important step in the direction of acquiring better data is coordinating our data collection systems: RHYMIS and HMIS. By integrating the systems under a united standard we would have consistent data and at the same time reduce burden on grantees.
Collaboration between schools, RHY providers, CoCs, and formerly homeless youth while doing the Point-in-Time (PIT) counts is essential when it comes to finding youth that would have otherwise not been visible during the count.
When is the PIT count happening?
The HUD-mandated biennial count is happening January 2013. Contact your CoC for specific dates.
Both Nan Roman (President of the National Alliance to End Homelessness) and Secretary Kathleen Sebellius (Secretary of Health and Human Services) urged participants of the conference to get involved with their local CoCs upcoming PIT count. This year will be the first year that HUD will require transition aged youth (ages 18-24) to be counted, making this an extremely crucial count in acquiring an accurate gauge of how many homeless youth are on the streets.
How can YOU get involved with helping improve your local community’s PIT count?
The California Homeless Youth Project in partnership with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) has developed the “Toolkit for Counting Homeless Youth”
to help CoCs more accurately count homeless youth in California. If you are in charge of your communities Continuum of Care, we urge you to take a look , or contact your representatives, provide them with the information, and volunteer that January night.
For more information on the the Homeless Youth population in California read our publication: “Estimating California’s Homeless Youth Population.”