Detail from "the second line," a painting by Bob Graham. For more about the artist, click here.

Online Program

Enumerating the Hidden Homeless: Strategies to Estimate the Homeless Gone Missing from a Point-in-time Count

*Robert Patrick Agans, University of North Carolina 
James Michael Bowling, University of North Carolina 
Donglin Zeng, University of North Carolina 

Keywords: homeless count, PIT count, unsheltered homeless population, estimation

To receive federal homeless funds, communities are required to produce statistically reliable, unduplicated counts or estimates of homeless persons in sheltered and unsheltered locations during a one-day period called a point-in-time (PIT) count. In Los Angeles, a general population telephone survey was implemented to estimate unsheltered homeless adults who are hidden from view during the PIT count. The Carolina Survey Research Laboratory at the University of North Carolina conducted telephone interviews with 3,390 adults living in Los Angeles and asked respondents if there were any homeless people staying either on their property or on their neighbor’s property. Consequently, two estimation approaches were developed: i) an estimate of the number of homeless persons identified as living on private property, which employed a standard household weight for the estimated total; and ii) an estimate of the number of homeless persons identified as living a neighbor’s property, which employed an additional adjustment derived from the size of the neighborhood network to estimate the total. This paper compares the results of these two methods and discusses the implications therein.

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