Rural Homelessness: Better Collaboration by HHS and HUD Could Improve Delivery of Services in Rural Areas Page: 18 of 59
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experiencing homelessness, including those who do not necessarily want
to be found.
Count methodologies vary by CoCs and might not be well implemented.
Service providers who conduct the PIT counts are meeting their mandated
requirements under McKinney-Vento. However, with no funding to pay for
the count, service providers often rely on volunteers to meet an unfunded
mandate. Particularly in areas of the United States where average
temperatures are below freezing in January, finding unsheltered persons
and recruiting volunteers to count them becomes difficult. Although HUD
officials told us that the benefit of a January count relates to the increased
demand for shelters at the coldest time of year, homeless shelters and
services are limited in rural areas, and in some counties, nonexistent. In a
few of the states we visited, commitments from state and local officials
and advocates have enhanced the process, resulting in an ability to recruit
volunteers and local organizations who have built a trusting relationship
with homeless populations.
According to officials and service providers in the states we visited, HUD's
PIT count likely has undercounted the rural homeless population, but to
what extent is unknown. While HUD officials acknowledge the
shortcomings of their counts, they believe significant progress has been
made in recent years in collecting homelessness data, particularly their
estimate annually since 2005 of the extent of homelessness and their
efforts to ensure data quality through providing technical assistance.22
Another factor associated with the completeness of federal agency data is
the lack of migration data. According to federal agency officials and
service providers, very little is known about the migration between rural
and nonrural areas of those experiencing homelessness because there is
no requirement or formal system for tracking migration patterns. Although
no federal programs formally track or are required to track migration
information, some local service providers maintain that information for
their own purposes. For example, the Kentucky Housing Corporation,
beginning in 2009, included questionnaires to track migration within and
across states. Those experiencing homelessness may migrate to and from
nonrural areas for many reasons. For example, service providers told us
22For additional information on actions HUD has taken to improve the data, see
GAO-10-724 Rural Homelessness
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Rural Homelessness: Better Collaboration by HHS and HUD Could Improve Delivery of Services in Rural Areas, report, July 20, 2010; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc301393/m1/18/: accessed May 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.