January 25, 2020

United States Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) and Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO) sent a letter to the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), urging the agency to “initiate an investigation into best practices in counting the United States homeless populations.”

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II

In the letter, the lawmakers wrote:

“Though the [Point-in-Time] count is a helpful tool in determining the population of those experiencing homelessness in the United States, it has limitations and is not an accurate picture of all homeless individuals living in the country. It is believed that the methodology allows for a significant undercount of the actual homeless population… We request that the Government Accountability Office investigate best practices to ensure a more accurate Point-in-Time count take place in the upcoming year.”

Currently, as Congressman Cleaver points out in his letter, for those experiencing homelessness to be included in the Point-in-Time (PIT) count, they must be visible by the volunteers and advocates who are counting, and they must be in a shelter or unsheltered. This typically occurs during the coldest of months and by counting each individual manually one-by-one. Unfortunately, this methodology leaves millions of people unaccounted for, which has major ramifications in the fight to address homelessness, as well as the upcoming 2020 Census. The transitory nature of homelessness necessitates more comprehensive analysis of the problem grounded in empirical and experience-based analysis, which GAO is best positioned to facilitate. The letter comes on the heels of a House Financial Services Committee hearing focused on homelessness in America.

“While the administration appears to only care about America’s homeless crisis when it can be used to insult individual states with Democratic leadership, we need to actually address the growing problem, and that starts with an accurate count of everyone who struggles to maintain a roof over their head,” said Congressman Cleaver. “If we are going to attack this crisis with the recognition and veracity it deserves, then it has to start with a more accurate account of homelessness in the nation. I look forward to working with GAO to find a methodology that will do just that.”

“Homelessness dashes hopes, crushes dreams, and is debilitating to communities across America,” Congressman Clay said. Every day we see the toll this housing insecurity is taking on American families especially children, who can’t concentrate in school because they’re sleeping in a car at night, and that’s why it is critical that we use every available method to ensure an accurate count for one of the most vulnerable populations in Missouri and around our nation. Just as Congress dedicates billions to defense funding every year, we must dedicate the funding necessary to programs and initiatives to end homelessness, and in my role as Chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction, I will do everything in my power to ensure we reduce and ultimately end homelessness in America.”

Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee; Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy; member of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress; member of the Committee on Homeland Security; and a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus.