What is the Point in Time Count?
The annual Point in Time Count (PIT) provides an opportunity to identify how many individuals and households are living on the street, or in other locations not meant for human habitation, and what some of their key characheteristics are.  Understanding the depth and breadth of homelessness helps communities, and the Federal government, target resources and policies effectively. The annual PIT count is how we measure our successes and further understand our challenges from one year to the next.

Why Use Mobile Technology to Help Conduct the Point in Time Count?
The annual Point in Time (PIT) homeless census is a tremendous undertaking that provides critical insights about homelessness in a community, tracks progress towards goals of ending homelessness, and impacts the region's annual scoring in the NOFA. Traditionally, communities approach the street count using teams of volunteers armed with paper forms and clipboards. If you are visiting this site, you are considering switching to mobile. Here are some reasons to consider how Counting Us and the Regional Command Center can save time and make for a more efficient point in time homeless count.  

    How much does it cost?
    The pricing is based on the size of the community and the percentage of the homeless population that are unsheltered.  We have heard from many communities that the costs are far less than what most they would have had to pay staff to perform data entry.  San Antonio believes they cut over 200 staff hours by automating, and Virginia used to have three staff spend two to three weeks entering in data.  Please contact us for a pricing estimate for your region. 

    What is included?
    The technical framework includes access to the Counting Us mobile app and the Point in Time Regional Command Center.  Key features of this framework include:

    • A secure data store to receive and manage surveys gathered from count volunteers;
    • Command Center access to provide management of the count in real-time;
    • Both a web-based version of the Counting Us app along with apps that can be downloaded from Google Play or the App Store;
    • Ability to produce HUD-compliant Unsheltered Homeless Reports;
    • Ability to produce HUD-compliant Sheltered Homeless Report based on those surveys that were submitted through the app or web version;
    • Maps of your CoC, with defined boundaries, incorporated into the Command Center;
    • The ability to see and report over sub-regions including county, city, and zip code boundaries;
    • An "Export Data" function that allows all, filtered, or custom views of data to be exported and analyzed using other tools such as Tableau or Excel;
    • The ability to archive records for people who were served in shelters, deemed not homeless, or counted more than once;
    • Access to online training sessions, technical support materials, and our virtual help desk.
    • Virtual help desk support services throughout the night of your count. 

    What other services does Simtech Solutions provide to assist us with our Point in Time count?
    Details on the comprehensive list of services that Simtech Solutions can provide your region can be found here

    We have several providers that do not use HMIS.  Can they use the Counting Us app to collect information on the people they serve?
    Yes!  The app includes surveys for both individual and family shelter providers.   

    I like the idea of using mobile tech but need the buy in of others in my region.  How can Simtech help with this?
    This one-page handout provides an overview of the key features and services available to automate the Point in Time Count. We also welcome the opportunity to conduct virtual demonstrations of both the Counting Us app and the command center.  Please contact us and we will follow up to set up the demo.

    We have several providers that serve victims of domestic violence. How can we include them into the count process?
    Domestic violence providers are prohibited by law from using HMIS or other database systems where the data is shared.  Simtech Solutions is a pioneer in building Excel-based data collection and reporting tools that enable domestic violence providers to participate in the count without ever having to send confidential data anywhere.  The Excel tool is free for all to use and can be found on our resource page.

    Can volunteers use their own device or do we need to rent or lease tablets? 
    There is no need to rent or lease tablets!  The app is compliant with every modern mobile phone and tablet operating system including Apple iOS, Google Android, and Microsoft Surface operating systems. According to this research study from the Pew Institute, 77% of adult Americans have a smart phone that they can use.  For those who don't, they can be partnered up with people who do. 

    What if portions of our count are conducted in areas without Internet access?
    No problem! Internet access is needed to download the app and register an account. When taking a survey without internet or data enabled, the app will provide an option to save the location in the phone, and then complete the survey. The survey can not be submitted, but can be saved as a draft and submitted later when the volunteer regains Internet access. 

    Some volunteers will be reluctant to use a mobile device and will likely stick with using paper surveys. How can this information be easily entered?
    The surveys can be entered in via smart phones and tablets while also being able to be submitted via the Counting Us website. We also have some additional recommendations if the decision is made to use paper along with the app.

    How will I know where people experiencing homelessness are in my community?
    Each survey conducted is tagged with GPS coordinates - even surveys conducted in places where there is no Internet connectivity! This allows for mapping and reporting by census tract, HUD CoC, or other types of regions.

    How does the mobile app facilitate the required reporting for HUD?
    The Counting Us app submits survey data to the Regional Command Center.  Count administrators can generate the Point in Time Summary Report with a couple of clicks or they can download the data and create their own reports.

    How else can data collected from the Counting Us app be used?

    • Houston, TX and the Texas Balance of State CoCs both used the app to collect information on nearly 4,000 evacuees after hurricane Harvey hit.  The Command Center was subsequently used to assist with efforts to match people with available housing resources.  Detailed instructions used by Harvey volunteers can be found here.
    • Coordinated entry should include people living on the streets.  The Counting Us app allows count volunteers to capture the names of each person being surveyed.  This helps communities build and maintain "by name lists" of homeless people residing in the area.  Such "by name lists" have been critical to the success of the Mayor's Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness as well as Community Solutions' Built for Zero campaign.
    • Data export allows for deeper analysis using Tableau™, Excel, and other tools.
    • Point in Time data can be used along with housing inventory and census data to create informative charts such as the ones found on this dashboard.

    What other services are available to help support our annual point in time count?

    • Onsite and/or virtual support throughout the annual homeless census;
    • Sampling strategies and extrapolation for regions that lack the resources to canvas the entire area;
    • Participation in pre-count planning meetings;
    • “Train the trainer” sessions to demonstrate the usage of the mobile app and the Regional Command Center;
    • Post count data collection and validation support;
    • Map development;
    • Project management assistance;
    • Count team management and Count Admin roles in the Command Center;
    • Advanced reporting services;

    What are the chances that there might be a critical system failure that would prevent us from being able to use the mobile app for the Count?
    The Counting Us app is what is referred to as a "native app" in that it is downloaded from Google Play or the App Store and runs on the mobile device of each and every participant. This is unlike some survey tools which might claim to be a mobile app, but in fact, are merely web-based forms running on the internet browser of each volunteer's smart phone. The difference in approach is substantial as a native app is inherently at less risk of failure given that each and every mobile device would need to fail for it not to work. An app that is running in a web browser however has a single point of failure - the server that is hosting the survey form.

    How does Counting Us address security issues?
    There are two main technical components of the Point in Time data collection framework, and we have rigorous protections in place to ensure the data remains protected in both. More details on our secure framework can be found here

    How much data can we expect the app to use?
    If a volunteer were to conduct thirty (30) surveys or less, and were to totally change neighborhoods for each one, they would still use less data than if they were to stream a single four minute long song.  

    How will I be able to manage data quality for my Count using the Regional Command Center?
    Issues of de-duplication and data quality as well as ensuring that the region was sufficiently canvassed are critical issues whether using paper or technology. The Command Center is a tool for you to use but it will not automatically de-duplicate records. However, we are confident that it will save you many hours and give you a more accurate Count!  The ability to see what's happening in real time, and react and adjust quickly is valuable and reduces errors. More information and considerations can be found here.

    Now that we are signed up and working with the app and Command Center, where can we get help if we have technical questions?
    We have posted answers to a series of additional Frequently Asked Questions in our Knowledgebase. If you don't see the answer to your question already posted then please submit a ticket to our help desk and a member of our team will be glad to assist.