Lot of confusion on what exactly the point-in-time census is and what information if produces. There’s a separate survey that is done that gives the county the demographic data. 

The PIT census is simply a one-time mass head count to try and get a reasonable picture of who’s sleeping unsheltered and who is in emergency shelter, cars, etc. Typically it’s about 150-200 people comprised of volunteers, homeless service provider personnel, law enforcement, and formerly homeless advocates who help locate the most frequented areas.

The post-count survey is done by a third party contractor-Applied Survey Research. They are the ones that work with the County to train and coach the people that will give the survey. ASR has contracted with Sonoma County to do the PIT and survey since 2015.  https://www.appliedsurveyresearch.org/news/2015/2/26/the-homeless-census-and-survey-of-2015.html?fbclid=IwAR0mtz0IRzHwg3UUXYFlrm1vDqYPQBSM0t9fvcLLUR6g0LXuABOdlcYE8V0

520 randomized homeless individuals are chosen to answer the survey questions. Those that take the survey get socks. Those that give the survey are formerly homeless who are paid $7 per survey completed. Please see Appendix A, “survey methodology” in the comprehensive report. 

No ID or verification is asked for. They’re simply asked. Furthermore, “During the interviews, respondents were encouraged to be candid in their responses and were informed that these responses would be framed as general findings” and “The survey requested respondents’ initials and date of birth so that duplication could be avoided without compromising the respondents’ anonymity.”

While I can appreciate the desire to try and elicit reasonably factual information from people who are experiencing homelessness, we cannot take statements made without any proof to back it up and use that data to make policy and spend 10s of millions of dollars of taxpayer money. So much self-reported data doesn’t pass muster for scientific rigor and would not be acceptable yet we use this flawed survey methodology to make policy using taxpayer dollars. 

I’ve also attached for your perusal a copy of the survey used that asks the residence question. Again note that no ID or verification is asked for.

Finally, note that not all homeless advocacy groups are in lock step with HUD and the PIT census methodology.

As an example, The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty believes the PIT count is flawed in several ways.


HUD reporting requirements and definitions of sheltered and unsheltered individuals has changed through the years as well. How people are counted and in what category and classification.

We have not reduced homelessness in any meaningful way since 2015.
See the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress every year. We’ve consistently been the highest to no better than 3rd highest in our CoC category for unaccompanied homeless youth.

We’re similarly never below top 4 in overall homelessness in our respective CoC category, since 2015.