Point-in-Time (PiT) Count
The 2021 Administrative PiT Count.
Every two years, communities across Canada participate in Point-in-Time (PiT) Counts that measure the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single-night. The PiT Count provides a community-wide measure of homelessness to support systems and service planning, and inform efforts to prevent and reduce homelessness. In previous years, the 7 Cities of Alberta have coordinated their efforts to create a province-wide picture of homelessness, through the alignment of methodology, analysis and reporting.
While the 7 Cities had planned to move forward with participation in the 2021 nationally coordinated Everyone Counts effort, local health authorities in several jurisdictions across the province recommended postponing aspects of the count that caused undue risk, such as in-person surveying. As a result, the 7 Cities opted to forgo a full count, in favour of an Administrative Count smaller in scope.
The 7 Cities, with guidance from Employment and Social Development Canada, are planning to conduct a PiT Count in 2022. Nonetheless, the data from this 2021 Administrative Count provides some insights into the rate of sheltered homelessness across the province, though it does not offer a complete picture of the known and anticipated impacts of COVID.
What is an Administrative Count?
An Administrative Count is a coordinated effort to enumerate individuals and families staying in shelters and transitional housing facilities, or in public systems like hospitals, and treatment and corrections facilities.
Unlike a PiT Count, an Administrative Count relies only on reported data from service facilities and systems. As a result, the rich survey data obtained from self-reported experiences of homelessness are not captured. Nor does an Administrative Count offer the enumeration provided through Street Counts. While an Administrative Count does not capture some important measures, such as the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness in a community, it does provide baseline information about the age, gender, racial identity and family status of those experiencing sheltered homelessness.
COVID-19 impacts to sheltered homelessness.
The 2021 Administrative Count is not comparable to previous PiT Counts, due to the vastly different circumstances created by the pandemic, and because it relies exclusively on administrative data exclusively. Relative increases or decreases in sheltered homelessness compared to 2018, may be driven by methodological differences, decreased capacity in the emergency shelter system (due to public health regulations), or unseen changes in the number of people experiencing unsheltered or hidden homelessness. It is only through a future Point-in-Time Count, and other data available, that we will understand the true impact of COVID-19 on homelessness across the province.
It is not yet known what the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be on the homeless-serving systems of care in Alberta’s 7 Cities. Decreased shelter capacity in existing emergency shelter facilities has created a need for more facilities to provide adequate overnight shelter to individuals experiencing homelessness. More facilities in operation has led to higher capital and infrastructure costs. Capital and facility changes during the pandemic have changed how the homeless-serving sector is accessed and this has undoubtedly influenced the 2021 Administrative Count.