2023 Point-in-Time Count improvements in methodology reveals a clear picture of homelessness in Chatham County

2023 Point-in-Time Count improvements in methodology reveals a clear picture of homelessness in Chatham County

SAVANNAH, April 3rd, 2023 – Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless recently released their 2023 Point-In-Time Count. The data showed there were 712 persons experiencing homelessness in Chatham County and Savannah during the annual Point in Time (PIT) Count held on January 26, 2023. The PIT count includes both persons residing in local shelters (441) as well as persons residing in places not meant for human habitation (271). PIT counts are conducted across the nation, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) during the last 10 days in January. By comparison, the local PIT count in 2022 was 523 persons experiencing homelessness, and in 2021, the PIT count was 323 persons.

As the Lead Agency for the Chatham Savannah Interagency Council on Homelessness/Continuum of Care (ICH/CoC), the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless (CSAH) leads the PIT Count Initiative locally. Over 100 volunteers from local service providers and partner agencies helped to conduct the 2023 PIT Count. New technology and geo-mapping played a critical role in the advancements of data quality. In 2022 CSAH’s Homeless Management Information System overall data quality increased by 31.5% creating more efficient collection and reporting of data.

Data collection for the PIT Count focused on quality with an emphasis on full county coverage. The Counting Us app was used for survey collection. SimTech Solutions provided advanced technical support and training, along with a survey tool tailored for this region. These advancements in HUD methodology contributed to the increase in the total number of unduplicated unsheltered and sheltered people experiencing homelessness in Chatham Savannah during the PIT Count.

Jennifer Dulong, Executive Director of CSAH, pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for the variations in recent PIT Counts. “In previous years, HUD made certain counts optional due to the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” she says. “This year, we had phenomenal cooperation with local shelter providers and more effective street outreach programs. We can point to the lack of affordable housing as a major contributing factor to the increase in unsheltered persons. Many people experiencing homelessness in our region are not chronically homeless—and now we can work to tailor our services to meet their needs.”

The 2022 PIT count included a significant number of barriers related to the COVID-19 omicron surge. Due to this, there were likely more unsheltered community members than represented in the 2022 count. In 2021, HUD gave communities the option to cancel/modify their count of unsheltered persons due to the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission during an in-person survey. As a result, HUD advised excluding the unsheltered population sub-totals for data consistency and accuracy.

For the PIT count in 2023, preparation began months before the event. CSAH Street Outreach staff identified 84 areas throughout Chatham County where people were living in places not meant for human habitation. Kishia Young, CSAH Director of the Homeless Management Information Systems, worked with partner agencies to improve data quality for HMIS shelter participants.

“With an accurate, well-informed count this year, we can now be intentional, strategic, and insightful in our work to ensure that persons experiencing homelessness have opportunities to find their way home,” says Dulong.

“The 2023 Point-in-Time Count gives us a clear picture of homelessness in our community, and because of the significant improvements in methodology and implementation of the count, led by CSAH, we have a confident baseline of data from which to take action and measure results,” said Savannah City Manager Jay Melder. “It was especially important for us to get a reliable data set this year, as we are injecting new strategies and unprecedented resources into moving the needle on homelessness. We have lots of work to do.”

“We are proud of the work led by CSAH to conduct the PIT count. With improved methodology, increased participation, and significant preparation, we have great confidence in the numbers. They establish an important baseline for our community at a time when we are seeing an infusion of resources, greater cooperation among stakeholders and strategic changes at the ICH to propel us towards achieving our goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring,” said Karen Guinn, Chair of the Interagency Council on Homelessness.

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Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless (CSAH) leads the development of sustainable community practices to reduce homelessness in Chatham County and Savannah. CSAH is the lead collaborative applicant to HUD for the Interagency Council on Homelessness/Continuum of Care. In addition to data collection and coordinated entry services for the entire region, CSAH provides effective street outreach, case management, and permanent supportive housing. For more information, visit www.homelessauthority.org.

For more information contact: Jennifer Darsey Dulong, Executive Director www.homelessauthority.org or jdarsey@homelessauthority.org