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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Indy’s annual count of the homeless is next week.

The federally required Point-in-Time Count asks cities to tally how many people are in shelters or on the streets on a single day in January. Last year, the pandemic prompted Indy to spread the street portion of the count over five days, asking people where they were on that first day.

The change in approach was implemented to avoid putting dozens of volunteers on the street at the peak of the pandemic. But Chelsea Haring-Cozzi, executive director of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP), says returning to the streets for four extra days allowed a more comprehensive count. CHIP will keep that approach this year, supplementing professional outreach staff with 35 volunteers.

Haring-Cozzi says using the same method will also allow direct comparison with last year’s data, when Indy set a 15-year high with 1,928 homeless, a 21% increase over 2020. Haring-Cozzi says the new approach may have allowed CHIP to find people it would have missed otherwise, although the count of people in shelters increased by nearly as much.

Haring-Cozzi says the data allow CHIP to plan and refine its strategy for getting more people into permanent housing. Volunteers count not just how many people are homeless, but break down that number by shelters and streets, black and white, male and female, and other subgroups like veterans. If there’s a significant improvement in one area, Haring-Cozzi says that allows CHIP to take a deeper dive into what strategies were working that may be repeatable. And if numbers are worse in one area, the information allows CHIP to focus efforts there.

The January count is a requirement for federal housing funds. Volunteers and professional outreach teams will fan out across shelters and streets on Monday, but they’ll continue the street work through Friday. Last year’s count found a 15-year high of nearly two-thousand people.

Haring-Cozzi says CHIP will submit preliminary tallies to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in April, with a final public data release expected in June.