As the pandemic continues to impact our lives, Americans continue to count. We count COVID-19 cases in our communities, survey the number of testing sites and rapid tests available – and in unfortunate cases, calculate how many days are left in isolation periods. However, in the final days of January, we will learn the pandemic’s impact on another measure critical to our nation’s wellbeing: the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count.
Led by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the PIT Count provides the most accurate estimate of the number of Americans, including Veterans, experiencing homelessness. HUD’s Continuums of Care (CoCs) program, which is responsible for coordinating all homeless services in a geographic area, leads the count alongside volunteers from VA and the community.
Together, the agencies set out on a single night in the last 10 days of January each year to gain a comprehensive understanding of the state of homelessness. Data gathered from PIT Counts are crucial in establishing the progress we have made towards ending homelessness and, more importantly, the tasks required to continue such progress.
Ending homelessness among Veterans is a top priority for VA. No individual who has served their country should be without a safe place to call home. While we have made great strides toward achieving this goal – the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States has declined by nearly half since 2010 – data from the most recent PIT Count suggests that more than 37,000 Veterans continue to experience homelessness on any given night.
Counting on VA volunteers
VA staff work tirelessly each day to address the individual and systemic factors that may lead a Veteran to experience homelessness. This includes ensuring a Veteran is receiving excellent care for their physical and mental health to connecting Veterans with the benefits they have earned. It also means by helping remove barriers to affordable housing, VA staff mitigate the risk factors of homelessness in every interaction with a Veteran.
This January and February, VA staff across the nation will demonstrate their commitment to serving Veterans by bundling up and volunteering in the PIT Count nearest them.
As volunteers encounter Veterans experiencing homelessness, they will be more equipped than any year before to provide support. Through SQUARES, a web-based application that allows VA employees and external organizations to verify a Veteran’s eligibility for VA’s homeless prevention and rapid rehousing programs, volunteers can connect Veterans with VA care immediately.
This update will be transformational in connecting Veterans, who otherwise may not seek VA’s help without physical documentation of their service, with the providers and support services they urgently need.
VA staff volunteering for the PIT Count
Guiding Veterans to safety, safely
As individuals from HUD and VA guide Veterans to stable and safe housing during the PIT Count this month, the safety of all volunteers is paramount. Being fully vaccinated and boosted is essential to protecting the health of fellow volunteers. It’s necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to individuals experiencing homelessness who already may be at greater risk of contracting the virus.
Furthermore, CoCs recommend all volunteers test negative for COVID-19 within one week of participating, wear personal protective equipment and practice social distancing. By following these scientific measures, volunteers can make a great impact on reducing homelessness while preventing any further strain on our health care system.
Please consider learning more about HUD’s Safety Considerations for Counting During COVID-19.
Participate in the PIT Count
All VA staff is invited and encouraged to participate in this year’s PIT Count. Thanks to the hard work of PIT Count volunteers, we will be one step closer to ending homelessness among our nation’s Veterans.
To learn more about the PIT Count, visit https://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/pit_count.asp.
Learn About VA Programs
- Veterans who are homeless or at risk for homelessness should contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
- Visit the VA Homeless Programs website to learn about housing initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
- For more stories like these, subscribe to the Homeless Programs Office newsletter to receive monthly updates about programs and supportive services for Veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Editor: This post was updated on 1/27/22 to reflect changes to the PIT count schedule and leadership attendance.