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Homeless Count Methodology

This year’s count took place on the night of February 22, 2022, from sunset to sunrise, and has three primary components: the unsheltered count, the sheltered count, and a supplemental youth count.


The 2022 Homeless Count measured the prevalence of homelessness on a single night in the City of Pasadena by collecting information on people experiencing unsheltered homelessness (i.e., those sleeping outdoors, on the street, in parks, or vehicles, etc.) and temporarily sheltered homeless individuals and families (i.e. living in an emergency shelter or transitional housing). An in-depth qualitative survey was used to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the experiences and demographics of the people who were counted. A more detailed description of the methodology is summarized below.


Components


This year’s count had three primary components:


  1. The unsheltered count consists of a robust canvassing of the city’s entire geography, focusing on areas where people experiencing unsheltered homelessness are likely to be found. Volunteers surveyed people sleeping outdoors, on the street, or vehicles, etc. using a standardized tool between the hours of 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. and again the following morning from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. Professional outreach teams counted during the morning shift and covered all parks and areas outside of general volunteer zones to ensure the safety of all who participated. In addition, volunteers surveyed people at sites that serve people experiencing homelessness or where people experiencing homelessness often congregate throughout the day, including the Pasadena libraries, on February 23, 2022.

  2. The sheltered count uses client-level data entered into the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) database by service providers to collect information on people staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing programs.

  3. A supplemental youth consists of the enumeration and surveying of unaccompanied and parenting youth between the ages of 18-24. The youth count took place during the afternoon of February 23, 2022, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. and was led by trained youth homeless service providers and peer volunteers who currently or recently experienced homelessness. The youth count was conducted in specific areas where young people experiencing homelessness are known to congregate, as identified by youth service providers and youth peers.

The unsheltered, sheltered, and youth homeless counts were coordinated to occur within the same time period in order to minimize the potential duplicate counting of people experiencing homelessness.


Mobile Survey Format


Pasadena utilizes a mobile-enabled survey instrument that volunteers access through their smartphone or tablet to streamline data collection and support comprehensive data analysis. This user-friendly mobile survey records participant responses electronically and improves the overall efficiency of counting efforts by allowing for real-time data collection and enhanced data quality. Technical assistance was immediately provided when necessary throughout the count, and duplicate responses were automatically flagged using a unique identifier code. This mobile survey format also automates the data collection process for volunteers through conditional logic based on previous answers to reduce the chance of errors.


Community Involvement & Interagency Coordination


The 2022 Homeless Count was developed in coordination with local homeless and housing service providers and people with lived experience. The planning team was led by staff from the City of Pasadena Department of Housing and the Homeless Count volunteer coordination consultant. The content of the mobile survey was also informed by Union Station Homeless Services’ Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP), an established group of people with lived experience of homelessness. Throughout the planning process, the planning team requested the collaboration and participation of several city departments that regularly interact with people experiencing homelessness and possess considerable expertise relevant to the count, including the Pasadena Police Department and the Pasadena Department of Public Health.


COVID-19 Preparations


Ensuring the safety of volunteers and participants was at the center of planning efforts. In response to the omicron variant surge, the Department implemented heightened safety measures based on recommendations from the Public Health Department:

  • All volunteers were provided with an N95 mask

  • All hygiene kits distributed during the unsheltered count contained N95 masks and surgical masks (previously only surgical masks).

  • All volunteers were required to take a rapid antigen test, provided by the city, within 24 hours of the count.

  • Any volunteer who began a period of quarantine or isolation within the ten days prior to the count was not permitted to participate.


Unsheltered Count

For the purposes of the 2022 Homeless Count, the HUD definition of unsheltered homelessness was used. This definition includes individuals or families with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train stations, or camping ground.


Volunteer Recruitment & Training


Dan Davidson, founder of Rosebud Coffee, led the volunteer recruitment effort in coordination with the Pasadena Department of Housing. Over 160 community volunteers and homeless services professionals registered to participate in the Homeless Count. Community volunteers served as enumerators on the night of the count, canvassing Pasadena in predetermined teams to survey individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness. In order to participate in the count, all volunteers were required to attend two hours of virtual training during the prior week. In addition to the presentation given at the training, volunteers were provided with pre-recorded training materials detailing general and safety guidelines and an overview of the survey tool.


The planning team implemented a two-tier system for volunteer training tailored to general volunteers and professional volunteers. The training incorporated best-practice guidance around engagement strategies and question-asking.


Survey Logistics


The city’s geography was divided into 21 zones covered by volunteers, with professional street outreach teams covering areas outside the zones, freeway embankments, and parks to ensure full coverage. Volunteers were sent in teams on a single night, spanning the evening of February 22 (from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m.) and both professional teams and general volunteer teams went out before sunrise the following morning (from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.). In addition, volunteers surveyed people at pre-identified sites that serve people experiencing homelessness or where they are known to congregate throughout the day on February 23.


Each team received a list of hotspots and a map that divided the area to be canvassed and clearly showed the zone's boundaries. Volunteers were asked to cover their entire zone in both the evening and morning shifts, completing a survey of every person they encountered who was experiencing homelessness. While volunteers were encouraged to complete a full survey of every person they encountered, 49% of surveys conducted were based on observation only. Volunteers utilized “observation only” surveys when a person declined to participate or a survey was not possible either because of the person’s location or if they were sleeping.


Extrapolation Methodology


The HUD-approved methodology was used to estimate population demographics for surveys with missing information. Surveys without complete information included observation-only surveys, those with “don’t know/refused to answer” responses, and those who dropped out of the survey.


Responses were estimated by removing surveys with missing data points from the denominator to determine the proportion of the population with a specific characteristic. Those proportions were then applied to the total population experiencing homelessness.


Deduplication


While every effort is made to ensure people are only surveyed once, duplication can still occur. To help reduce duplication, individuals who complete a full survey are assigned a unique identifier that prevents them from being included in the final count more than once. This identifier is created based on certain characteristics, including initials, gender, race, age, and ethnicity. For example, a person experiencing homelessness may have the following unique identifier of “WTMW62H.” This code indicates that the person’s first name began with “W,” the last name began with “T,” he was male “M,” he was White “W,” he was 62 years old “62,” and Hispanic “H.”


If a duplicate ID is identified, location data, identifying characteristics provided, and time stamps recorded through the mobile survey are taken into consideration when determining whether a survey is in fact a duplicate. In total, three surveys were identified as duplicates and removed from the data set. In addition to these duplicates, the following surveys were not included in the final count:

  • Two people who were surveyed stayed in an emergency shelter on the night of the count. These people were removed from the unsheltered count because they were captured in the sheltered count data.

  • Three adults were surveyed during the supplemental youth count and were therefore recorded during the unsheltered count if sleeping in Pasadena the night of the count.

  • One person surveyed was outside the city boundaries and therefore was not included in the Pasadena count.

Sheltered Count


For the purposes of the 2022 Homeless Count, the HUD definition of people experiencing sheltered homelessness was used. This includes individuals or families living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including congregate shelters, transitional housing, and hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by federal, state, or local government programs for low-income individuals).


Survey information was collected from people who were temporarily sheltered on the night of February 22 through the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). HMIS is a database administered by the Continuum of Care that is used by the majority of Pasadena’s homeless service providers to confidentially store client-level data. Providers were notified in advance of the date that the Homeless Count would be taking place and were advised to ensure that their data was updated and accurate for the evening of the count. The Pasadena Public Health Department, Friends In Deed, Union Station Homeless Services, and Sycamores also activated their weather-activated motel vouchers the evening of the count, and all the people who spent the evening in this program were included in the sheltered count. In addition, Door of Hope's Domestic Violence Transitional Housing Program client data was added to the sheltered count through a provider-level survey.


Youth Count Methodology


Pasadena also conducted a supplemental count of unaccompanied and parenting youth between the ages of 18 to 24. While conducting Homeless Counts has always presented a unique set of challenges, communities have found it particularly difficult to identify youth experiencing homelessness. This is because youth experiencing homelessness often congregate in different locations and at different times than older adults. This dedicated count is part of a nationwide effort, established and recommended by HUD, to improve the understanding and scope of youth homelessness.


Each group conducted surveys along predetermined routes which were informed by hotspot planning with youth volunteers. Trained youth enumerators who currently or recently experienced homelessness and youth service providers surveyed unaccompanied and parenting youth between the ages of 18 and 24 on February 23 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Data from the supplemental youth count and unsheltered count were compared and deduplicated using the same methodology as the unsheltered count.





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