Continuums of Care Should Begin to Compare Homeless Count Data to American Community Survey Data to Help Reveal Race and Ethnicity Overrepresentation Among Homeless Populations in Cities in the Entire Geography That They Serve

  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has taken action to ensure that Continuums of Care accomplish a comparative analysis of race and ethnicity distribution within the entire geography served by the CoC.
  • Continuums of Care can take further action to ensure a comparative analysis of race and ethnicity distribution within each city in the entire geography served by the CoC.

HUD’s actions include the development of the CoC Analysis Tool: Race and Ethnicity. The Tool provides an opportunity to compare Point-In-Time Count (PIT) and U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) data to facilitate analysis of race and ethnicity disparities among people experiencing homelessness. The comparison involves contrasting both the ACS distribution of race and ethnicity of the total general population and the race and ethnicity of the total of persons living in poverty in the geography served by the CoC with the distribution of race and ethnicity of people experiencing homelessness upon analysis of Point-In-Time homeless count data.

HUD states that “Such an analysis is a critical first step in identifying and changing racial and ethnic disparities in our systems and services.”

Another Analytical Step

Continuums of Care (CoCs) can take another critical step in identifying and changing race and ethnic disparities in their systems and services. This step would involve both of the following actions:

  • Determining the distribution of race and ethnicity of people experiencing homelessness for each of the cities upon analysis of Point-In-Time homeless count data; and
  • Comparing to the ACS distribution of race and ethnicity of the total general population and the total of persons living below poverty level in each of the cities in the geography served by the CoC to identify any overrepresentation.

A comparison, for example, may reveal that a given racial group makes up 10% of the total population of a given city, the same given racial group makes up 15% of people living below poverty level in the same given city, and 20% of people counted as homeless during the most recent Point-In-Time Count in the same given city. Thus, this given racial group is overrepresented.

Next Steps

Most, if not all, CoCs are able to identify the city in which each person is counted as homeless during their Point-In-Time homeless counts. As a result, CoCs can determine how many people were counted as homeless by city and then determine their distribution of race and ethnicity.

Identifying and accessing race- and ethnicity-based overrepresentation among people experiencing homelessness in cities can help local public and private leadership take action to solve this issue.

A CoC can go to U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: United States and enter each city that it serves with a population of 5,000 or more and scroll down to Race and Hispanic origin to see a percentage breakdown by Race and Hispanic origin after a city is entered.

A CoC can go to The S1701 table from the American Community Survey (ACS) which provides information on poverty status in the past 12 months and enter the name of a city in “Search for a filter.” Once the city is selected, various data fields will be shown. The CoC can then scroll to, and click on, S1701 Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months and go to the “Percent below poverty level” column, which will provide a percentage breakdown by Race and Hispanic or Latino Origin.

The CoC can then create a table for each city served and list the percentage breakdown by Race and Hispanic origin for the city in one column and list the percentage breakdown by Race and Hispanic or Latino origin for persons below poverty level for the city in the next column. The next column can list the race and ethnicity breakdown of Point-In-Time homeless count data for the city, which provides the opportunity to see if any race or ethnicity is overrepresented. Click here to see an example of a table.

HUD continues to ask CoCs if they have conducted a racial disparities assessment in the last 3 years in its annual CoC Program application. HUD specifically asks, Has your CoC conducted a racial disparities assessment in the last 3 years? and to Enter the date your CoC conducted its latest assessment for racial disparities.

Regarding the assessment, HUD encourages CoCs in the annual Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to

  • Obtain input and include persons of different races and ethnicities, particularly those overrepresented in the local homelessness population.
  • Develop a coordinated community response created in partnership with a racially diverse set of stakeholders and people experiencing homelessness and partnering with organizations with experience serving underserved populations.
  • Review local policies, procedures, and processes with attention to identifying barriers that result in racial disparities and taking steps to eliminate barriers to improve racial equity and to address disparities.
  • Apply input from such groups when designing, planning, or implementing programs and activities.
  • Explain your CoC’s process for analyzing whether any racial disparities are present in the provision or outcomes of homeless assistance.
  • Describe what measures the CoC has in place to track progress on preventing or eliminating disparities in the provision or outcomes of homeless assistance.

In summary, a CoC can ensure that its reporting of Point-In-Time data appropriately includes a comparison of race and ethnicity representation for each city served by the CoC to the race and ethnicity representation of the general population and also to the race and ethnicity representation of persons living below poverty levels for each city. Most, if not all, CoCs are able to identify the city in which each person is counted as homeless. If not, a CoC can begin to do so during its next homeless count. Such a level of analysis allows a CoC to see if any race or ethnicity is overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness in the cities served by the CoC and further the development of the HUD-encouraged assessment activities to prevent and eliminate overrepresentation.

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