The Failed Geography of Homelessness

Authors: Bryan Booth*,
Topics: Field Methods, Global Change, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: homeless, homelessness, PIT count, Point-in-Time count, homeless populations
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Council Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Homelessness is now a critical issue for the twenty-first century. In the past one hundred years various methods have been used to enumerate the homeless populations across the United States but research has shown that the population estimates have all been inaccurate, imprecise, and for the most part invalid. There is certainly political and social forces that impact both the willingness and the ability of the government to perform an accurate census of the homeless population, but for the most part the failure has been due to the inability of geographers to create methodologies and tools adequate to the task. The Point-In-Time Count (PIT Count) conducted by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) attempts to count the number of homeless persons living in the USA on a single day in late winter, but critical examinations of PIT Counts consistently show basic errors in methodology and application. Although these estimates of homeless populations are supplemented by counts of HUD Housing and emergency shelter records, there is no doubt that a large proportion of homeless individuals are never counted. . This analysis includes an examination of the drivers, private and governmental, that require accurate and timely estimates of homeless populations, current census methods in use, and the barriers to achieving valid population estimates of homeless individuals and families, as well as a review of recent innovations and proposed methodologies that can improve the accuracy and precision of future efforts.

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