The Road Home

A Glimpse into the 2024 PIT Count

On a single night in January, volunteers and local organizations come together for the annual Point-In-Time (PIT) count. This crucial nationwide initiative allows communities to document and understand the extent of homelessness, both within shelters and on the streets.

Nicole Christen, the Program Director at The Road Home, felt a sense of inspiration after her recent volunteer experience earlier this year. Encouraging others to join in, she highlights the opportunity to gain a firsthand perspective on Dane County’s housing challenges.

Christen has consistently gone above and beyond in her efforts to support families experiencing homelessness. In her time at The Road Home, Nicole has been a driving force in reshaping the narrative around supportive housing programs. This commitment to making a difference is evident in her proactive approach. That’s why when the opportunity to participate in this year’s annual PIT count came around, she jumped at the chance to get involved.

“I’m all about just seeking those opportunities that I’ve never done before,” Christen said.

To prepare for the night ahead, the PIT Committee dedicated time to carefully review the survey questions, ensuring they were culturally sensitive and trauma-informed. Volunteers, organized into teams of 2-3, were assigned the crucial task of engaging with Dane County’s homeless community. The survey itself covered a broad spectrum, ranging from demographic information to inquiries about reasons for not using shelters and suggestions for potential improvements.

This valuable opportunity not only gathered data, but also served as a bridge to connect individuals experiencing homelessness with ‘coordinated entry’ – a triage process designed to evaluate their specific needs and guide them to the appropriate resources. However, navigating this process delicately was essential, recognizing the vulnerability of the individuals engaged in these conversations.

“We walked up to a couple that was in a car, and when we started to ask them any of the questions that we had, I noticed they would immediately jump to defend themselves and justify why they don’t have income,” Christen reflected. “ I think that was really eye opening because it’s probably the experience that they have had with most helping professionals.” 

The dedication of PIT volunteers plays a crucial role in reshaping our connections with those living in potentially unsafe living conditions. It allows us to gain insights into areas where we can improve and introduces valuable resources. Over the years, these efforts have led to significant strides in the community. For instance, individuals who were initially reluctant to engage, such as a man enduring a decade of homelessness, have gradually become more open to the support available.

For years, the man had never participated in the PIT count, but this time, he walked up to the car and took food and a jacket. It felt like progress. He was so thankful for the little things we were able to give him. You never know, maybe that helped him go connect to another resource the next day,” Christen said.

The impact of the PIT count is profound, creating insights into the patterns within the homelessness community. By leveraging the collected data and anecdotal stories, we can identify discrepancies and demographic nuances that might go unnoticed throughout the year. This year, the City of Madison took a step further by providing gift cards for survey participants, a direct way of offering support.

Organizations like The Road Home and the City of Madison engage in ongoing conversations on how to make progress with this issue, and the PIT count serves as a catalyst for moving our community forward. 

To learn more about the annual Point-In-Time (PIT) count and stats, visit