Registry Week

About The Method

A ‘registry week’ is an approach communities use to gather actionable data that allows them to effectively address the needs of their homelessness populations. A Registry Week harnesses resources from the community to identify by name every individual and family requiring safe, permanent and sustainable housing. The information collected during the registry week period – on a person’s homeless status, needs, and vulnerabilities, for instance – can be used for assessment and prioritization for housing and services, and this information can in turn be used to build a by-name list.

A by-name list is an outcome of Registry week and is a comprehensive list of every person in a community experiencing homelessness, updated in real time. Using information collected and shared with their consent, each person on the list has a file that includes their name, homeless history, health, and housing needs. This individualized information allows practitioners to understand the needs of each person experiencing homelessness in a community.

Steps To Collect Registry Week Data

  • A successful Registry Week requires strong planning and coordination, which usually takes about 3-4 months lead time.

    Identify a standard assessment tool that offers a standardized, community-wide set of questions and collects information about everybody experiencing homelessness by name.

  • Set up an integrated and secure system or database that collects a two-dimensional list of names and tracks how people experiencing homelessness interact with services.
  • Early in the planning phase, it is useful to identify a lead organization from the community sector to coordinate the logistics of Registry Week.
  • Determine the geographic and population scope most suited to their local campaign.
  • Determine the available resources, lead time, breadth and depth of stakeholder commitment, and the likely demand from different homeless population.
  • Create a stakeholder map and involve as many community members as possible-workers from all sectors of the community and beyond.
  • Reach out to organizations providing services in each precinct of the campaign community to collect information about precise locations where people sleep so that an appropriate number of teams and experienced team leaders can be allocated accordingly.
  • Create a plan or strategy on how teams will be allocated.
  • Reach out to housing providers who can connect surveyors with couch surfers staying in properties under their management.
  • Team surveying kits can be prepared in advance and can include items such as a cash gratuities for respondents completing a survey, maps, a list of contact details for the team and HQ contact number for troubleshooting/hourly check-in calls, surveyor lanyards, simple first aid supplies for every vehicle and, of course, a sufficient supply of each type of assessment survey based on intelligence previously gathered about the designated survey location.
  • Done over the course of one week but may sometimes extend to two weeks in case of a larger geographic area.
  • Following training, survey teams meet across three early mornings in a row, beginning before dawn, to allow time to reach their assigned public space locations and complete the assessment surveys with people sleeping rough. Early morning starts are required because it is crucial to identify who is homeless and sleeping in the streets and parks of the community.
  • Homeless families and individuals in temporary or crisis accommodation or cars are invited to participate.
  • Evening survey teams must attend service hubs, motels, soup kitchens, or other service locations to ensure access to as many community members as possible who need housing assistance.
  • The quality of information collected is monitored progressively for accuracy and completeness. The analysis includes key findings relating to the demographic composition, and acuity of the need of the population group(s) surveyed, as well as information about health, homeless history, and psycho-social indicators.
  • All agencies working with the By-Name List database need to be provided appropriate access/permissions to the database. This can help communities match homeless individuals to appropriate resources based on their assessment scores.
  • Procedures around database protections, permissions, and backups need to be established.
  • Non-identifiable data on the results are presented to the community and to local and state policymakers to help better understand the extent and nature of homelessness in that particular community. These findings are presented during a Community Briefing held on the last day of Registry Week. All community members, including volunteers, workers from all sectors, local leaders, and media personnel, are encouraged to attend.


Limitations Of Registry Week

• It cannot measure people experiencing “hidden homelessness” (e.g., people who are couch surfing).

• It relies on the ability of volunteers to connect with people experiencing homelessness and they may miss some individuals who do not appear to be homeless, who are well-hidden, or who are actively avoiding being counted.

• Marginalized populations, such as individuals who identify as LGBTQ2S+ may be undercounted because they may not want to disclose information due to prior experiences with stigmatization or discrimination.

• Seasonal variations and weather conditions (e.g., rain, ice storm) may skew the accuracy of the results as the count is conducted outdoors and at service provider locations

• Since it is generally conducted over a short period of time to reduce the possibility of double counting individuals, it will not provide an exact number of people experiencing homelessness, likely resulting in an undercount of the population.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, communities should adapt their own assessment tool considering topics like equity, inputs from those with lived experience, and data to house and resolve homelessness.

Ensure the assessment tool selected offers a standardized, community-wide, set of questions that collects information about those experiencing homelessness by name. A common assessment tool is the VI-SPDAT (Vulnerability Index – Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool).

Case Studies

Questions About Registry Week

For questions or expressions of interest regarding Registry Week, please email