Nearly 100 outreach workers and volunteers searched Nashville overnight Thursday and into Friday morning to assess how many people are experiencing homelessness in the city.
The annual Point-In-Time (PIT) count – federally mandated by HUD and implemented by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency – attempts to count those unsheltered and sheltered in emergency shelter, transitional housing and Safe Havens on a single night in January. The data will be used when Davidson County requests federal dollars to help the city’s homeless population.
The volunteers spent the evening searching alleys, parked cars, encampments, behind dumpsters and under bridges. Nashville’s shelters provided their own counts. Data of age estimation, gender and location was also recorded.
Mayor Megan Barry speaks to volunteers gathered at Nashville Rescue Mission before the Point-In-Time count begins.
Mayor Megan Barry joined an outreach for the first time, searching the downtown area with other volunteers.
“A lot of the stuff we do in my office is focused on our unhoused. Having a better understanding of what that looks like is good for me and my team,” Barry, a former member of the Metro Homelessness Commission, said.
Volunteers from Open Table Nashville, Street Works, Nashville Cares, Park Center, the VA, and Fisk and Vanderbilt Universities took part in the count. Some handed out donated supplies like blankets, flash lights, water and dog food.
More than 2,300 people are experiencing homelessness in Nashville, according to the last PIT. Homeless advocates and outreach workers have disputed that number, estimating the actual number is closer to 22,000. They say the number is much higher when those living in hotels or “doubled up” with family and friends are included; the PIT does not count those in its definition of homelessness.
Judy Tackett, interim director of Metro’s Homelessness Commission, said she recognizes the scope of data is limited to a one-night count, but she believes the numbers will play an important role in building a “housing crisis resolution system.”
“My focus this year is to come up with where are we, and if we’re not sure what the picture is based on the databases we have,” Tackett said. She added that additional databases are necessary to get an accurate count on how many people are experiencing homelessness in the city. “We recognize the PIT is the PIT; it’s not the whole picture,” she said.
A recent report based on the last PIT number indicated that chronic homelessness in Nashville spiked 10 percent between 2015 and 2016. Metro attributed that number to “more skilled outreach workers” collecting data.
The 2017 PIT data collected is due to HUD by April. MDHA said it will release the numbers to local groups “when it feels comfortable” with what it has compiled.
Cover photo: Volunteers were given maps of their areas to record data of those experiencing homelessness.