264996 Counting the homeless: Enhanced methods for enumeration of homeless persons through community collaborations

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 10:50 AM - 11:10 AM

Catherine L. Troisi, PhD , Division of Management, Policy, and Community Health and Epidemiology, University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, TX
Ritalinda Lee, PhD , Executive Director, Claris Technical Services, Huntsville, AL
Gary Grier, JD , Coalition for the Homeless, Houston, TX
Stephen L. Williams, MEd, MPA , City of Houston Health and Human Service Dept, Houston, TX
Estimates of the number of homeless persons inform funding allocations, services planning, program evaluations and so directly determine the ability of a community to intervene effectively in homelessness. However, these counts, which HUD mandates be conducted by grantees bi-annually, tend to be relegated to volunteers under the general direction of homeless services providers/community development personnel (who often have minimal expertise in statistical models, sampling and epidemiology) or consultants (who may have quantitative proficiency, but lack an understanding of the exigencies of homelessness). Counts across communities are conducted using methods of variable validity and reliability and thus variable accuracy.

To overcome these challenges, we created a multi-sector collaboration between academia, government, and community agencies that employed community health best practices, epidemiologic methods, rigorous training, and stakeholder capacity building. We applied an Incident Command System Model (used by police and fire for decades and recently adopted by Public Health Preparedness) to generate a valid, reliable enumeration. A Plant-Capture method of statistically estimating undercounting was implemented.

The collaboration and processes were found to build capacity in each of the member sectors: the Health Department used ICSM as a training opportunity; the academics enhanced their community health efforts; the service sector were taught and implemented more rigorous quantitative methods and the community was exposed to public health as a pragmatic and effective discipline.

This presentation details the strategies, challenges and results of these efforts. While the presentation will discuss the theoretical basis of the methods, it will be highly interactive and practical for participants.

Learning Areas:
Administration, management, leadership
Other professions or practice related to public health
Program planning
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the Incident Command System Model (ICSM) 2. Discuss how implementation of ICSM can be used as a means of building collaborations among Academics, Health Department personnel, Providers of services to homeless persons and community volunteers 3. Assess how implementation of ICSM can be a capacity building method for each of the stakeholder groups 4. Describe how ICSM can be applied to the Enumeration of Homeless Persons, as required by HUD in communities receiving funds for homeless services 5. Assess the likelihood of improved validity of counts using ICSM versus other models used in enumeration of homeless persons 6. Evaluate multi-sector collaborations

Keywords: Homelessness, Methodology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I designed the enhanced methodology for counting the homeless described in the abstract.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.