Homeless Census

2017 Point in Time Count Information

In order to meet HUD’s yearly requirement for detailed information on the sheltered and unsheltered peoples in their counties, the Houston Coalition for the Homeless and a collaborative Philadelphia CoC took their proven methodology and moved it from a paper collection system to updated and enhanced digital mobile technology.

Using proprietary technology from Grassroots Unwired allowed these groups to move from paper to tablet allowing both cities to customize the forms in any way they wanted including designing the collection tool to gain deeper insights into the situation, health and overall well-being of those surveyed.

  • Because these counts generally occur in the middle of the night, using the tablets was found to be less awkward than fumbling with a pen in low light conditions.
  • With the tablets, the questions are much easier for both the volunteer and subject to read and understand.
  • Questions can include those required by HUD like DOB and housing status and specific questions a CoC is wanting to collect.
  • Changes to the survey can be done up until the time of the count.
  • All volunteer locations can be monitored via the GPS on the tablets by the Staging Director creating a safer volunteer experience.
  • Individuals being surveyed feel more comfortable seeing a volunteer or staffer with a t-shirt and tablet rather than a clipboard.

Your team can also begin to review results as soon as surveys start rolling in because the data is collected in real-time when connected to a network. When not connected to a network, the data is still collected, time stamped and logged so while you aren’t seeing the data collected in real-time, you can still track the progress of your volunteer shifts once they reconnect to a cell or wifi-network.

The ability for the application to continue to work without a cell connection present allows volunteers to continue to do their jobs even in places like underground subway stations and other remote, low connectivity areas.

If volunteers come across people with cell phones or email addresses, they can receive a thank you email along with information on any other resources that may be important to that person. This may help CoC administrators reach out to a population that is often hard to find and inform people of resources available to them that might have been unknown before.

The Grassroots Unwired Standard PIT Count App includes:

  1. Introductory webinar
  2. Personal Meetings to review standard features vs. customized options
  3. One-week lease of equipment (no need to worry about volunteers downloading to their own devices)
  4. Online training Demos scheduled in advance as needed
  5. On call customer support
  6. One-time upload of data if needed
  7. Immediate access to survey reporting
  8. Export data to Excel to use with any other system
  9. Save money and the planet using less paper
  10. As an add-on you can customize your count survey and choose tools that will fit your exact needs.


ReportingHigher Contact Rate because of faster and easier contact with individuals. Information is automatically collated into useful reports which makes sending data to HUD faster and more efficient.
Data EntryNo more trying to figure out someone’s handwriting because the tablet is set-up to make intake as easy as possible. Less surveys will have to be invalid because of hard-to-read handwriting.
Site ManagementStaff can now see exactly where all the volunteers are to make sure they haven’t gone to unsupported areas and to view shift progress.
Resource TimeResource time will be drastically reduced by not having to repeat certain actions, do manual data entry, compile certain reports by hand or monitor field progress.
Mapping/GISAfter the Count has been completed, the app can be used to create heat maps showing where the densest populations are for reporting. Ability to adapt the street team to the geographic area as needed.


Morale BoostingVolunteers are excited to use the tablets vs paper because they are much easier to handle than paper and clipboards. This makes it more fun to be out in the field serving their community.
Ease of UseAfter a one-time training most users are ready to go and have enough knowledge to be able to use the tablets easily.
Full Service TrainingGRU has a train-the-trainer model for all Volunteer managers who can then easily train the volunteers to use all available features.
Safety and SecurityThe Safety and Security of your volunteers is key to having a successful Count. Since volunteers know that staff can see where they are at all times, should something happen they can be guided to safety or help can arrive quickly. Only people who have been thoroughly trained can participate.
ProductivityThe tablets allow for easy shift changes, faster survey taking, easier data management and therefore higher productivity measures.
Easily ConnectInstead of having to concentrate on a hard to fill out paper survey, the tablets allow for more personal interactions with people being surveyed. They can see the questions as they come up and have a conversation with the volunteers.

People Being Surveyed

Easy to ReadFont and Text are large and tablets can be used in low light conditions.
Provide Helpful ResourceAn email can be sent after the interaction that provides helpful information about resources like shelters or medical programs.
Faster ProcessSwiping through questions on the tablet vs. carefully filling out each section of a paper survey is much faster.
Identify New Hotspots or high density areasIn real-time, high density populations can be identified.
Data Security and PrivacyInteractions are secured behind the GRU platform and a user name and password as opposed to more exposed paper surveys.
Fluid ScriptsQuestions can be changed in real time during the count to reflect any fine tuning that needs to be done based on feedback volunteers give about their experiences in the field.