By Sammy Salazar
January has been a busy month for Prosper Waco’s Data and Research team. As our community’s Homeless Management Information System administrator, I’ve been working with local providers to coordinate the annual Point in Time count. The PIT count takes place every year in January. It’s the one time a year that we’re able to obtain a count of both sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January.
The PIT count in 2021 looks a little different than previous years, due to COVID. Instead of having teams of volunteers, Heart of Texas Region MHMR’s PATH team conducted the unsheltered count throughout the last week of January. Their experience with street outreach helped in locating unsheltered communities and helped reduce the risk of any spread or exposure.
Additionally, by having shelters conduct their counts first, we’re able to make sure no one is counted more than once. It may sound complicated, but data from this project helps us understand what homelessness looks like in our community.
In 2019, 193 individuals were surveyed during the PIT count. About 30% of individuals indicated they had a severe mental illness or a substance abuse disorder. Information like this helps illustrate the complexity of homelessness and the variety of services needed.
The needs of an individual with a substance abuse disorder may be completely different than the needs of a pregnant or parenting teenager. There’s not a single pathway out of homelessness, but reliable data helps ensure our providers are meeting the needs of every individual.
Sammy Salazar is community data specialist & HMIS administrator for Prosper Waco.