Working Together to Conduct the Point-In-Time Count

February 2020


Each year in the last week of January, communities across the United States work toward a common goal: counting and surveying people experiencing homelessness in each region, in each state, and ultimately, throughout the country. This effort, called the Point-In-Time Count, is directed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and helps gauge progress toward ending homelessness. 


The Point-In-Time Count consists of two primary arms: a census of people in shelter and transitional housing that is drawn from a shared database, and a survey of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness that is conducted by service providers and volunteers.  


St. Stephen’s coordinates with Hennepin County to conduct the unsheltered portion of the Hennepin County Point-In-Time Count. This year, 71 volunteers and partners joined 31 St. Stephen’s employees in administering the unsheltered Point-In-Time Count in Hennepin County. 


One shift of surveyors fanned out across Hennepin County from 10pm on Wednesday, January 22nd to 5am on Thursday, the 23rd. Governor Tim Walz, Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho, Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke, Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker, and Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle were among this year’s overnight volunteers. Before heading out to their various geographic locations, all overnight volunteers gathered at St. Stephen’s to review procedures. There, Governor Walz took a moment to thank volunteers for their service, and to speak to the importance of the count: 


We’re making policies that make a difference, we’re moving resources that make a difference, and we’re using the platform of this office to make the case that this basic human right of having safe housing is absolutely fundamental. If we’re going to tackle anything from education to economic stability to basic human decency, this housing piece is critical. This count matters.” 


During the day on Thursday, another fleet of volunteers and staff ventured to meal sites, drop-in centers, and service agencies to connect with people who may not have been counted by the overnight shift. 


We know these counts serve as an underestimate of people experiencing homelessness in our communities. Nevertheless, the Point-In-Time Count informs the direction of public dollars, and Minnesota’s statewide plan to prevent and end homelessness. In the words of Street Outreach Team Lead (Military Focus) Erika Ohles, the Point-In-Time Count is about more than numbers; “it’s amplifying the voices" of people who are often unheard by decision-makers. 


Last January, volunteers and staff identified 603 people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Hennepin County, and 7,977 people experiencing homelessness throughout the state of Minnesota. For more information about the 2019 Point-In-Time Count, click here. Data from this year’s Minnesota Point-In-Time Count will be available here in late spring 2020.


Additional Coverage: 


Minnesota Public Radio: Annual count of people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota takes place Wednesday 

Minnesota Public Radio: Homeless count may reveal yet more people living on the street 

FOX9: Statewide homeless population count held overnight 

KARE11: Groups counting Minnesota's homeless population 

KSTP: Gov. Walz, volunteers gather for statewide effort to count Minnesotans experiencing homelessness 

Video of Governor Walz’ remarks:

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