Locally, agencies serving unhoused community members have used the Annual Point in Time Count, or PIT Count, as the baseline for understanding the scope of homelessness in our community for many years.
Conducted on one day each year, the PIT Count is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is part of the formula that determines how much state and federal resource communities receive for programs and services. The PIT Count is voluntary and many unsheltered people decline to participate. It can also be challenging to locate people who are living in hard-to-find places in only one day.
To provide a better understanding of homelessness in Lane County throughout the year, Lane County, Eugene and their partners are using the Homeless By-Name List (HBNL), which tracks people who are receiving services and who are unhoused from a number of local agencies monthly. The HBNL was adopted and successfully piloted in 2019. By-name lists are tools used by cities across the United States to help guide the work those communities are doing to address homelessness.
“The PIT Count is valuable information, but we’ve known for a long time that it wasn’t showing us the complete picture,” said Sarai Johnson, joint housing and shelter strategist for Lane County and the City of Eugene. “It’s like using a flashlight in a dark room – the PIT Count shows us a slice of the overall problem and doesn’t illuminate the whole. The Homeless By-Name List is like shining a floodlight in that dark room – we can see much more clearly.”
Why Use the HBNL
The HBNL will:
- Demonstrate the scope of homelessness in Lane County
- Clarify how people move in and out of the homeless services system on an ongoing basis
- Provide accurate information to inform goals to reduce homelessness
- Provide accurate information to demonstrate the county’s progress in making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring
The HBNL is part of the larger Homelessness Management Information System used locally. Community partners such as St. Vincent de Paul and the Eugene Mission participate in adding information. Participating service providers enter people into the system at the time they receive service and note their exit when service is complete or someone chooses to leave a program. Ultimately, Lane County and Eugene hope to have all service providers in the area participating in the HBNL. Currently, the HBNL does not include information from some local service providers; it also does not include unsheltered people who do not engage in any services from a participating agency.
“With better and more accurate data we can make better decisions,” said Johnson. “From deciding service priorities and funding allocations to interventions to help people become housed and stay housed.”
In 2019, the pilot year for HBNL, 9,679 unduplicated people accessed homelessness services in Lane County during at least one point in the year with a monthly average of nearly 4,000 people accessing services. Comparatively, the 2019 PIT Count identified 2,165 people.
According to the HBNL, in June 2020 the number of unhoused people in Eugene who accessed services was 2,121. Another 193 people accessed services in Springfield, 150 in Cottage Grove, 102 in Florence, 50 in Oakridge, and 100+ across other communities and unincorporated areas in the county. The HBNL numbers fluctuate seasonally with more people accessing services during cold months and fewer people accessing services in warmer weather. The data also indicate most people accessing services are from the local area.
The more comprehensive numbers provided by the HBNL will help Lane County and Eugene, as well as other community partners, better plan for services and adapt the recommendations of the Public Shelter Feasibility Study and System Analysis (also known as the TAC Report) to meet the community’s current needs.