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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

Why It's Important To Make The Most Of The Annual Homeless Count

Srdjan Randjelovic
Annual homeless counts scheduled for the last week of January influence federal funding from HUD.

Homeless counts across Texas and the rest of the country are happening this week. Thursday night, volunteers in DentonDallas, Collin and Tarrant counties will tally what's known as unsheletered homeless.

The timing is strategic — the thought being that on a cold January night, people who have a sheltered place to sleep will be there. Meaning everyone who remains on the street likely has nowhere else to go.

Why the homeless count needs to be accurate

  • Federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Developmentis influenced by the annual homeless count, meaning if volunteers miss too many unsheltered homeless, they're leaving money on the table.
  • It helps nonprofits plan their services and programs for the homeless. "They're out there, so if we don't see them Jan. 23, we may see them April 14 and we still need to take care of them," says Diana Romagnoli with the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance.

How the homeless count has changed over time

  • Dallas started counting in 2003, before HUD required a count and before the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance spearheaded the effort. 
  • Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance used to count with 500, then 750, then 1,000 volunteers. The effort has now grown to about 1,500 volunteers.
  • Volunteers used to record the answers to homeless count questions with paper and pencil. Since 2017, MDHA has used an app which record data in real time. David Gruber, with Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance says the app helps on the back end too. "Once everybody is done counting, we can then sort by question, and we can query inside the app, ok, who's a veteran? Give us all the veterans," Gruber says.

How to get involved

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.