On Jan. 23, the District conducted its annual Point-In-Time (PIT) count, a survey conducted nationwide to give a “snapshot” of residents experiencing homelessness on a single night. According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’s analysis of that data, 489 of the 6,521 people experiencing homelessness in D.C. were “transition-age youth,” young adults age 18-24.
However, the D.C. Homeless Youth Census, a separate annual count of local homeless youth that was conducted only four months prior, found there were 1,328 transition-age youth experiencing homelessness in the District. Other than a small window of time, what separated these surveys was the time taken to complete them and the criteria used to determine who was counted as homeless and who was not.
Regardless of the different demographic sizes, both of these counts are meant to showcase the reality of what homelessness looks like in D.C., and depending on what the numbers suggest, are also how local providers determine how to allocate their services to help alleviate the issue. But when it comes to homeless youth, why don’t the numbers add up?
For Deborah Shore, the director and founder of the homeless services provider Sasha Bruce Youthwork, and other advocates for ending youth homelessness both regionally and nationally, the use of different definitions and methods when conducting these counts is keeping the data from aligning. Because data influence funding, Shore says this discrepancy also restricts the level of care that is available to homeless and unstably housed youth.
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