This report serves as a resource for tribal communities that wish to conduct accurate homeless counts to more effectively serve the needs of their populations (Authors).
Data collected from homeless counts comprise a critical resource to help ensure that communities receive the support services needed to assist people in securing safe, permanent housing. Homeless counts in rural areas, however, can be difficult to accurately conduct. Not only does rural homelessness differ from urban homelessness (Housing Assistance Council 2008), but also chronic poverty can be difficult to address due to the spread-out nature and small populations of rural communities. These situations are especially problematic in rural Census –designated American Indian, Alaska Native, and Hawaii Home Land (AIANHH) areas where high poverty rates and poor housing conditions often exist. Limited funding and inaccurate data on homelessness in these areas have further limited opportunities for adequate housing (Wilder Research 2007). Adding complications, AIANHH populations often mistrust researchers and external data collection (Davis and Reid 1999). Due to these issues, homelessness on rural AIANHH lands is often undercounted and inaccurate, and available data do not wholly represent the scope of the problem. Beyond this, legal differences between tribal sovereignty and jurisdictional authority further complicate the process. Regardless of these concerns, accurate homeless counts for communities on AIANHH lands are critical for effectively addressing homelessness. The following toolkit outlines a process for tribal communities to use in successfully conducting their own homeless counts. The importance of accurate data collection is illustrated, as are the tools tribal communities will need to conduct these surveys in ways that best suit their needs. Two case studies are included to demonstrate how tribal communities have successfully conducted homeless counts in the past. They specifically examine the methods used and applicable lessons learned. This report serves as a resource for tribal communities that wish to conduct accurate homeless counts to more effectively serve the needs of their populations (Authors).