When is it appropriate to ask people, "Where are you sleeping tonight?" when conducting a PIT count?

Date Published: January 2019

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During the October 2018 PIT Count Office Hours, the presenters mentioned that it is not always appropriate to ask someone: “Where are you staying or sleeping tonight?” Many CoCs have expressed confusion or concern over this premise. What was meant by this has more to do with when you ask the question “Where are you sleeping tonight?” as opposed to how that question is phrased.

That is, if you conduct your PIT count at night, then it is appropriate to ask, “Where are you sleeping tonight?” If you conduct your PIT count surveys at any time other than nighttime, you should be asking about a prior night. You should not ask someone before reasonable nighttime hours where they plan to sleep that night, as those plans can change, which can compromise the accuracy of your PIT count data. This principle is the same for both night-of-the-count (i.e., street- or service-based approaches) and post-night-of-the-count (i.e., service-based) PIT count approaches.

So, for example, let’s say that you set your PIT count date for the night of January 23. (Please note: this date was selected purely for purposes of example and is not a date that reflects any specific preferences or requirements on behalf of HUD). Consider the following scenarios:

  • If you send your PIT count surveyors out at night/during reasonable sleeping hours (so, for example, at 10pm on January 23 or any time before, say, 5am on January 24), then it would be acceptable to ask: “Where are you sleeping tonight?” Since that person is already likely where they will be staying for the night, it is reasonable for them to be able to accurately answer that question.
  • However, if you send your PIT count surveyors out to survey people during a time frame that would not constitute reasonable sleeping hours (say, from noon-5pm or 4pm-8pm), you should not send them on January 23 to ask “Where are you sleeping tonight?” Instead, you should send them on January 24 or after (depending on your PIT count methodology) to ask about where people slept on January 23. It is unreasonable to expect them to be able to report with 100% accuracy where they plan to sleep that far in advance.

For further information about how to plan your PIT count, please ensure that you have reviewed the PIT Count Methodology Guide, and note that HUD published a new PIT Count Online Training earlier this year that walks through some key pieces of the Methodology Guide.

Tags: HDX PIT - PIT - General

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