Welcome To The Toolkit

There are many different methods to enumerating the number of people that experience homelessness. Each method has advantages and disadvantages that help determine whether it will be a good fit for a specific. Some methods or combinations of methods may be more effective than others in different contexts.

This toolkit explains the different methods and provides information about the pros and cons to help communities start the initial discussions around selecting the best method for their context and goals.

*All of the research interviewees were from North America, the UK, Australia, so our toolkit will inadvertently have a bias towards these countries and contexts. Future iterations of the tool will include a more diverse range of inputs.

Why it Matters

Enumerating homelessness is an important step in addressing it. With baseline data on the number of people experiencing homelessness, communities and countries understand if homelessness is increasing or decreasing over time, as well as trends and demographics that will inform programs and policies that can more effectively address homelessness.

Despite its importance, measuring homelessness poses various challenges for municipalities all around the world. Communities often struggle to quantify homelessness due to a lack of clear definition, limited funding, limited access to existing data, and complex or overwhelming information on how to enumerate homelessness. This toolkit creates a more approachable space for organizations and communities to learn about and quantify homelessness in their municipalities.

Goals of the Toolkit

We want communities and countries to have access to a clear, easy to understand, and actionable set of inclusive resources that will help them build their knowledge of how to collect homeless data. We want

to de-mystify homeless enumeration methodologies and processes for practitioners and encourage them to implement one or more data collection methodologies.

The toolkit aims to:

  • Help communities build their knowledge of how to collect homeless data.
  • Provide a complete overview of the different methods of measuring homelessness and concrete steps needed to implement them.
  • Provide case studies from communities that have successfully implemented different methodologies.

Special Thanks

Thanks to the students of DePaul University’s EXP 480 and Professor LeAnne Wagner for researching and consolidating a vast amount of enumeration resources into this toolkit during the Fall of 2022 and Winter of 2023.

Not sure which method is right for you?

Deciding which method will be most effective can be a barrier to enumerating homelessness. Take this short informational quiz to explore what methods might be viable for your community!

Defining Homelessness

Defining homelessness is an important step in determining what enumeration methods might be most effective for your community. IGH advocates for an inclusive definition of homelessness that incorporates people living on the street or in places not intended for human habitation, people living in temporary or crisis shelters, and people living in adequate and insecure housing.

Methods For Measuring Homelessness Data

Administrative Data

Administrative data is information service organizations or government organizations collect about their programs, including services provided and client demographic information.

Registry Week

Registry Week is a process that involves gathering detailed demographic information on every individual and family experiencing homelessness in a community.

Census Data

The census method is an official count or survey of a population, which can be used to collect demographic and historical housing information on people who have experienced homelessness in the past.

Point In Time

A Point-in-Time (PiT) count is a survey that counts the number of people experiencing homelessness in a specific area at a specific point in time. A PiT count may be a simple tally, or some demographic details may be collected.


Capture-recapture is a method that organizations can use as an extension of other enumeration method. Capture-recapture is effective for tracking changes over time and requires multiple counts.

Take the Quiz

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