Re: cancellation of 2021 Point in Time unsheltered count sought by Multnomah County / JOHS

Keith Wilson



I have been communicating with JOHS and PSU, the party responsible for the PIT. I had some questions I was asking them to include to ensure we get a really good idea of the size and scope.


I think what they are doing is the right call. Safety of our citizens is absolutely the most important core value to follow.


On a data informed approach, using this year as a baseline would give a false sense of accomplishment because as you can see, we are just trying to hold on. The numbers will be off the charts if we completed a PIT right now. To say we are doing a good job at improving lives as our PIT would most likely fall by double digits from 2021 to 2023, would be a false narrative. Let’s get 2022 on the books so we can see clearly and then let’s get a 2023 view and really get good data.


Please know that a two year count in any organization is a really bad Key Performance Indicator anyway. We need daily counts to really drill down and help groups with saving and improving their lives. But we do not want to lose any in counting.


Assuring you of my best intentions.




From: <> On Behalf Of Houseless First via
Sent: Tuesday, January 5, 2021 8:57 PM
Subject: Re: [pdxshelterforum] cancellation of 2021 Point in Time unsheltered count sought by Multnomah County / JOHS


Here's a post from King County (Seattle & area)'s Department of Community & Human Services giving their rationale for cancelling the County's 2021 Point in Time count of unsheltered houseless (Dec 17, 2020): 

"Gathering large numbers of volunteers during a pandemic, typically over 1,000 people for King County’s count, is simply not advisable. In addition, the staff and volunteer resources normally dedicated to planning, organizing and conducting the community count are better prioritized in the ongoing and critical work to ensure the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness and working to reduce and contain the spread of COVID-19 among homeless communities throughout the county." 

They also note that "Responsibility for planning and coordinating the Point in Time Count will move to the King County Regional Homelessness Authority in 2022". This Authority, however, seems to be in a state of organizational chaos, the Seattle Times reported yesterday, so it doesn't bode well for passing the data baton there.  

I'm skeptical of the rationales given by King County DCHS. If having data, particularly in a relatively consistent series over years, was important enough to do in the past, why is it less of a priority now? You could say that, being in uncharted territory with Covid, economic recession, and mass rent/eviction crisis makes it all the more important to get a grasp on what's happening. In Portland's case, data from this year would be the baseline as the area begins implementing the Metro Supportive Housing Services tax measure program, established for the next 10 years - as WW's Jacquiss observed. 

As for health risks, it seems like brief, distanced interaction in outside space ranks very low in transmission risk. You might help a lot of people out at the same time, by discovering dangerous situations or helping unhoused people with stuff while you're at it.  The PIT normally has a survey process that calls for some amount of closer interaction, but is there really nothing and did they consider what else might be done without that component?  Normally yes they use largely volunteers, presumably harder to get now; but on the other hand, King County probably now has 1000s of employees working remotely, and often with reduced duties due to Covid effects. They can't pitch in, but ok for volunteers to?  Ok, yeah don't trouble yourself anyone, we're just out here dying. 

I find it hard to avoid the suspicion that significant factors here are, local homeless authorities would rather not go to the trouble, or have to respond to political outcry for rising homelessness counts, or be held accountable for reducing these counts. 



On Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 6:21 PM Tim McCormick <tmccormick@...> wrote:

To: PDX Shelter Forum

Bcc:  Nigel Jaquiss (reporter, WW), 

   Marc Jolin, JOHS  Denis Theriault, Communications, JOHS / AHFE

   [inviting comment or to join forum if they wish. You can reply/post even if not a member, it just gets held for moderator approval]. 

"The [city/county] Joint Office of Homeless Services is seeking a waiver for the biennial "point in time" count, which takes place every odd-numbered year in late January.

On the streets of Portland's Old Town. (Brian Burk).

    "That process, in which Multnomah County takes a one-night census of all the houseless people it can find in the county, is part of a federal census overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development." 

   "'It's a difficult decision, but we don't see a way to conduct as accurate of an unsheltered count as we've done in past years without creating additional health risks for thousands of vulnerable people and our provider community,' said Marc Jolin, director of the Joint Office."


I wonder, what sort of alternative, community-run count/outreach effort might be organized? These counts are generally, mainly volunteer efforts anyway. Also, could we take the opportunity to develop new ideas and programs to not just 'count' but engage, enfranchise, and empower houseless residents? This would be starting from a different set of values and goals than the normal Point in Time counts, which have a key motivation of being required by HUD for local "Continuums of Care" (e.g. JOHS) to remain eligible for federal homelessness funding. 


Tim McCormick

Moderator PDX Shelter Forum, Editor at HousingWiki
Organizer at Village Collaborative

Portland, Oregon 

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