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Portion of Pima County's annual homeless count cancelled due to COVID-19

Tucson Salvation Army Hospitality House
Posted at 6:15 AM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 08:15:53-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness made a tough call this year and decided to cancel their annual count of people living on the streets, known as the Point in Time (PIT) count.

"There's great value in this count every year, but it posed a risk this year," said Jason Thorpe with the City of Tucson Housing & Community Development Department.

That risk is the spread of COVID-19. Typically, hundreds of volunteers go out into the community to conduct the count and interview people one-on-one.

"Hypothetically, we could stand six feet away and wear our masks, but we're asking people to talk to us about things like history of domestic violence, disabilities and HIV status. These are things we're not going to yell across a camp to people," said Thorpe.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is not requiring Pima County to conduct the unsheltered PIT count this year. This leaves a gap in a series of data that has been collected on the area's homeless since 2005.

"That count really illuminates trends in homelessness in the community. It helps us better understand how our systems are working and where they're failing," said Thorpe.

Other parts of the annual count will still take place. Through an online database, Pima County will count the number of people living in shelters and the number of beds available. These counts are referred to as the sheltered Point in Time (PIT) count and the Housing Inventory Charts (HIC).

"We've found other ways to do estimations with the number of people experiencing homelessness and the trends and prevalence among different populations using some of our available data sets this year, while keeping everyone safe," said Thorpe.

The Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness plans to release their 2021 sheltered PIT and HIC in late Spring.