AUSTIN (KXAN) — Data from the first Point in Time (PIT) count conducted since the pandemic was released Thursday. The PIT count is done nationwide and is intended to be an estimate of the number of people sleeping outside on any given night in a community.
During this year’s count, more than 2,300 people were counted, according to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO). Of those, nearly 1,300 were people sleeping outside or in cars and more than 1,100 were people sleeping in shelters or transitional housing.
The number of people counted as experiencing homelessness has gone up, according to ECHO, aside from 2020 which it said was an outlier.
“The trend is definitely clear here that our count has definitely been increasing over this longer period of time,” Claire Burrus, who does data for ECHO, said.
ECHO also mapped out where they located people sleeping outside. Since the last count, which was in 2020, people have become more spread out across the city and the number of people living in city-owned parks and outdoor spaces has gone up, ECHO reported.
As KXAN has previously reported, the PIT count is likely to be an undercount. According to ECHO’s dashboard, which the group believes more accurately captures the number of people experiencing homelessness, more than 4,500 people are likely unsheltered on any given night.
“There are some requirements that HUD have that make it to where you’re not really actually counting everyone experiencing homeless because, for example, you have to actually see them, so if you see a tent and you think that somebody is in there you couldn’t count them,” Akram Al-Turk, director of research and evaluation at ECHO told KXAN previously.
During the pandemic, the PIT count was put on hold due to health and safety reasons. During that time, ECHO put together a way to collect data from local outreach groups to estimate the number of people living outside any given night in Austin. They have a dashboard that displays those results.
“There are service providers who are working directly with people experiencing homelessness… Those folks are inputting data into a centralized database and we’re analyzing that data to really help us understand the scope of homelessness on a regular basis,” Al-Turk said.
This year’s PIT was the first since 2020. Now biannual, an Austin nonprofit assembles volunteers to physically count the homeless population and get information from them via a survey.
The PIT counts take place in person all over the country. Results must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development every other year to determine the allocation of federal funding to address community needs.