However, the Omicron variant is dramatically increasing the number of COVID-19 cases nationwide, causing some CoCs to revisit their plans for collecting this critical data.
Many communities did not conduct an unsheltered count last year due to the pandemic and its associated risks. The need for this data remains, however: it is still unclear how these unprecedented times are impacting homelessness, and communities are looking to HUD for guidance.
What the Latest HUD Guidance Says
According to the most recent PIT Count Office Hours hosted by HUD on January 12, 2022, there are no plans to cancel or postpone the 2022 Point-in-Time Count activities. Continuums of Care that did not conduct an unsheltered homeless count in 2021 are required to conduct a count this year. HUD recognizes CoCs are concerned about the severity of COVID-19 cases in their community; to limit the spread of COVID-19, there is an option to delay the count by attaining HUD’s approval.
Postponing the Count
If a Continuum of Care determines it is not feasible to conduct the count during the last ten days of January as is typical, it can request an exception to postpone its count to a later date in February. In some special cases, an exception may be granted as far out as March. By that time, the Omicron surge will hopefully be past its peak, and it will be safer to conduct the count at a later date. HUD encourages communities to try to get their requests in before the last ten days in January, where possible.
These requests for approval should go to HICPITCount@hud.gov. The message must include:
- CoC Number and CoC Name
- Proposed date of the rescheduled count
- Reason for changing the date
If a CoC postpones its count, the data submission deadline will not be postponed and will still be at the end of April. Therefore, there will be less time to prepare collected data for submission to HUD. CoCs must ensure they have the capacity to meet this deadline if they reschedule their 2022 PIT Count.
Maintaining Safety During 2022 PIT Counts
Given that communities will still need to conduct the count, it is important to do so as safely as possible. In addition to allowing CoCs to push back the dates of their counts, HUD has published a helpful resource outlining health and safety advice for conducting the PIT.
HUD recommends that volunteers and workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and are tested for COVID-19 no more than a week prior to the PIT Count. CoCs should plan for volunteer absences: PIT Count volunteers should stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19. Though CoCs should request that volunteers and staffers bring their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – masks, hand sanitizer, etc. – CoCs should prepare to provide these items to volunteers. Additionally, CoCs should consider providing additional PPE such as face shields, N95 masks, or gloves depending on their level of community transmission.
While conducting the count, HUD recommends that all volunteers should follow social distancing protocols (e.g. staying six feet apart), and that participating volunteers should have a lower risk of contracting COVID-19. Given the shifting nature of volunteers during the pandemic, CoCs should engage their volunteer bases to ensure that they are fully staffed for the count. HUD understands that providers are already operating at maximum capacity, and suggests partnering to create multi-day counts and/or leveraging ongoing unsheltered outreach work to conduct the count.
Where possible, HUD also encourages remote trainings that include three key components for engagement: keep the training short, include a short quiz, and provide a point of contact. Inclusion of these points will help to ensure that the most important information is distributed, as volunteers may be distracted during virtual trainings.
During the count, HUD recommends partnering with public health and health care partners to provide insights on safety during the pandemic. To minimize COVID-19 spread and interaction, CoCs should also consider a sampling approach or using mobile technology to conduct the counts.
Consulting Other PIT Count Resources
For additional HUD resources on PIT Counts and to stay abreast of updates related to the 2022 Point-in-Time Count, continue to check resources posted on the PIT and HIC Guides, Tools, and Webinars page. This resource center on the HUD Exchange site has several resources on the PIT Count published as recently as January 2022.
Additionally, the Alliance prepared advisory materials in advance of last year’s Point-in-Time Count, including a webinar (Conducting the 2021 PiT in the Age of COVID-19) and a related report prepared by Alliance Research Council Members Dr. Dan Treglia and Dr. Rebecca Brown, that may be helpful when planning and conducting this year’s PIT Count.
Ensuring a Successful Count
As communities consider their 2022 PIT Counts, the most important factor is maintaining the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness, as well as the health of providers and volunteers conducting the counts. As your community’s PIT Count approaches, ensure that all staff and volunteers are educated and prepared to safely conduct the count – and, if the count is delayed, that your CoC is able to submit its data to HUD in a timely manner. Given the tragedies and unpredictable nature of the past two years of the pandemic, it is now extremely important to ensure an accurate PIT Count in order to best serve people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.