DENVER — Advocates for the homeless say Denver’s sub-zero temperatures this week will have an impact of this year’s Point-in-Time count of homelessness in the region.
The annual survey of people experiencing homelessness takes place on the same night in cities across the U.S. It took place Friday morning.
“It does impact our ability to do the Point-in-Time because it means the outreach workers have to be out in this cold too and fewer people are outside,” said Cathy Alderman, spokeswoman for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
“Often times, when folks know this extreme weather is coming through they’ll either use shelter when they might not normally use shelter or they may pool their resources together and get a hotel room or this might be the one time that they reach out to that friend to see if they can stay on their couch overnight.”
Alderman said the Point-in-Time Count is known as a tricky tool, as it always undercounts the actual homeless population in the region.
But she said cold temperatures could actually help find more people this year, as some people who may have spent the night on the street found their way to emergency shelters and warming centers where people gathering the survey could collect more data.
“It is the tool that [United States Department of Housing and Urban Development] relies on when assessing whether a continuum of care or the coordinating entity for homelessness services in a given area is doing enough to address homelessness,” she said.
Jamie Rife, executive director of Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, the organization that coordinates the region’s response to homelessness, said the data in the Point-in-Time count is limited and said there has recently been a push to use more real time data.
“It is a one-night snapshot and doesn’t fully capture really the resources that we need which tend to be five to six times more than what we’re actually showing to Congress as our need,” she said. “Maybe on a day like today there’s between 6,500 and 7,000 people experiencing homelessness. That’s what we had last year is 6,800. But what we see over a year is that it’s closer to 28,000.”
“Really what we’re working towards is having real time data every day all the time by name who’s experiencing homelessness.”
Much of that real time data is collected by the Homeless Management Information System, a database of specific information on individuals without a place to live. That database can let individual service providers know what a client needs in terms of housing.
“I think what we’re seeing is this trend towards people wanting to get towards real time data. I think as a nation we’re not there yet,” Rife said.
The data from this year’s survey won’t be available until later this year.
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