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 homeless in a community, including those living on the street, or other unsheltered locations, 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?
Mobile technology provides a lot of advantages over paper forms and clipboards. 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. Please review this page for more details about pricing and feel free to contact us for a sample contract and 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 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, 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.

    More details about features can be found on the pricing page.

    What other services does Simtech Solutions provide to assist us with our Point in Time count?
    Simtech Solutions brings technology and consulting services - details of which can be found here

    We have several shelter providers that do not use HMIS.  Can they use the Counting Us app to collect information on the people they serve?
    Yes!  We can include a survey for sheltered individuals and families in the app.  

    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 are also available to conduct virtual demonstrations of the technology.  Please contact us to set something up.

    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 built an Excel-based data collection and reporting tool that allows 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 still collect and save all of the information, including the location. The user will be prompted to save the survey as a draft which can be 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 have 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. 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.  People that are designaged count managers and administrators can clean up data and generate the Point in Time Summary Report with a couple of clicks. The data can also be downloaded for other 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.  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 that are unsheltered.  The app allows count volunteers to capture the names to support the development and maintenance of "by name lists" of homeless people residing in the area, a key component of Coordinated Entry
    • 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 want to use this approach rather than trying to canvas a large area;
    • Participation in pre-count planning meetings;
    • “Train the trainer” sessions for "PIT Leads" and other leadership for the Count;
    • 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;

    How can I use features in the Command Center to get a more local, or filtered, view?
    This short video highlights some of these features:

    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 a "native app" in that it is downloaded from Google Play or the App Store and runs on local mobile devices. (This is unlike some survey tools which claim to be a mobile app, but are merely web-based forms running on the internet browser of a smart phone). A native app is inherently at less risk of failure as 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.  More information and considerations can be found here.

    What are the different roles that can be assigned for access to the Command Center?
    Both Count Managers and Count Administrators are able to access the Command Center to manage data including updating and archiving records. Count Administrators can also control all of the settings for the Count, including managing users, assigning the set up key, and changing the status of the Count from testing to active.

    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 the Support section of this website. 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.