Everyone Counts 2021 – Recommended standards for participation

Official title: Everyone Counts – A guide to Point-in-Time Counts in Canada – edition 3.1 - Standards for participation

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List of abbreviations

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Community Advisory Board
Community Entity
Canada Pension Plan
Employment and Social Development Canada
Guaranteed Income Supplement
Homeless Individuals and Families Information System
Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Old Age Security
PiT Count
Point-in-Time Count
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Recreational Vehicle
Veterans Affairs Canada
Violence Against Women

Standards for participation in the coordinated count

The nationally coordinated Point-in-Time (PiT) Count approach includes core standards for the methodology that guide how the counts are conducted in participating communities. . The core standards support a consistent portrait of homelessness over time and allows for comparability across communities. At the same time, the approach gives flexibility for communities to adapt the methodology for their local context. The core standards identify common screening and survey questions that are asked across participating communities. The PiT Count approach also includes recommended standards, based on effective practices used by communities in Canada.

We recognize that COVID-19 has had a serious impact on communities in Canada, and that the health and safety of the Canadian population are paramount. Given the current context, adaptations to the methodology are available to communities to support the implementation of the PiT Count with reduced risks and burden on the homelessness service sector. It is recommended that local public health guidelines be considered when determining which COVID-19 adaptations may apply in a community. The adaptations are highlighted following each core standard.

Core standards

Core standard 1

The PiT Count is composed of an enumeration and a survey. The enumeration is the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night between March 1 and April 30. The survey is normally conducted on the same night, or the following day. This timeframe can be extended in the case of a joint PiT Count and registry week, consult the Guide to Point in Time Counts in Canada for more information.

COVID-19 adaptations

The administration of surveys may be separated from the one-night enumeration. The unsheltered population can be surveyed over several days. The sheltered population can be surveyed over several weeks. The number of people surveyed should approximate the number surveyed in previous counts.

Core standard 2

The methodology and survey used by the community includes the core screening and survey questions, and the core locations described in the Guide to Point-in-Time Counts in Canada.

Core standard 3

The PiT Count is led by the Reaching Home Community Entity (CE), the Indigenous Homelessness CE, a collaboration between the two, or by a third-party contracted to lead the count.

Core standard 4

The local implementation of the PiT Count is based on consultations with relevant local partners, including the CE, the Community Advisory Board (CAB) as well as the Indigenous Homelessness CE and CAB, where applicable. The local methodology is approved by the CE and Indigenous Homelessness CE, where applicable. The PiT Count lead is required to submit an interim report (using a template provided) to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) describing the local methodology by January 31 of the year of the count.

Core standard 5

The results of the PiT Count are reported to ESDC via the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS), or another approved tool. In order for the data to be integrated into the national database, data must be provided in a format consistent with that database (guidance to be provided by ESDC). This information will contribute to the understanding of homelessness across Canada, and will not be used to publicly report on findings from individual communities.

Core standard 6

Sheltered counts are based on the number of individuals staying in emergency shelters, extreme weather shelters, and Violence Against Women (VAW) shelters on a single night. Where applicable, it may also include families or individuals who received hotel or motel vouchers in lieu of shelter beds. Note that surveys done in shelters are not used to determine the enumeration, but rather to provide information on the sheltered population. Sheltered counts are based on data collected by shelter data systems, where available (for example, HIFIS).

Core standard 7

Transitional housing counts are based on the number of people in transitional housing or transitional shelter programs on a single night. These programs typically provide longer-term housing solutions with supports intended to help individuals transition from homelessness to secure housing.

Core standard 8

Surveys administered in shelter and transitional housing are normally carried out on the night of the count. Large communities may use a sampling approach for their shelter survey (for example, a representative sample of the shelters or shelter residents), but they must explain their sampling strategy.

COVID-19 adaptations

Surveys administered in shelters may be carried out over a longer period of time. Please note that for the enumeration portion of the count, only administrative data is used.

Core standard 9

Unsheltered counts are determined via a survey with screening questions administered on the night of the count or the following day. Some communities may also include observed homelessness. Survey teams should only use observed homelessness when they are unable to engage with someone and use strict criteria (for example, a person who is sleeping outside with their belongings). Surveys in encampments may be done earlier during the day of the enumeration, or the following day. The data collection process can include the entire community, known locations within a community, a sample of neighbourhoods, or it can use a mixed approach. The survey can include:

  • streets
  • alleys
  • parks
  • other greenspaces
  • transit stations
  • abandoned buildings
  • vehicles
  • ravines
  • other outdoor locations where people experiencing homelessness are known to sleep

COVID-19 Adaptations

To reduce the length of interactions between surveyors and participants, you may administer only the screening questions on the night of the count. This will both reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and decrease the number of teams or time it will take to cover all areas. The survey for the unsheltered population may be administered over a maximum of 7 days using a dedicated team (or teams).

Core standard 10

The PiT Count lead is responsible for the quality of data collected. Efforts should be made to ensure that each person is counted only once, through both the survey itself and through de-duplication of the data (consult Section 5 in the Guide to Point-in-Time Counts). The lead is also responsible for ensuring that staff and volunteers receive the proper training, including:

  • count standards
  • survey procedures
  • data management and privacy
  • personal safety

Core standard 11

The results of the count are to be communicated to the community. Particular effort should be made to communicate the findings to count partners, those who work in the sector, and those who experience homelessness.

Recommended standards

Recommended standard 1

The local community PiT Count approach (for example, additional survey questions or populations, areas to be surveyed, etc.) should be based on consultations with relevant sectors involved in homelessness, including:

  • CABs
  • indigenous community
  • municipality
  • shelters and other homeless-sector service providers
  • people with lived experience of homelessness
  • local police and emergency services
  • transit authorities

Cooperation with these sectors will contribute to the successful implementation of the count.

Recommended standard 2

If possible, the local PiT Count report can include data from local public systems—including correctional facilities, juvenile detention centres, hospitals, detox centres—for people who have no fixed address and who are imminently going to be released, but have no discharge plan that includes housing. This number is not included in the core enumeration.

Recommended standard 3

The PiT Count coordinator should work closely with the HIFIS Lead or the lead for community shelter data, as well as any other local shelter data coordinator, where applicable.

Recommended standard 4

The results should be shared with the respective province or territory. Where the municipality has a requirement to enumerate homelessness, the CE should work with the municipality to ensure that the count meets requirements. Additionally, the CE should ensure that the municipality has access to all necessary data for their reporting requirement.

Recommended standard 5

While not part of the count, it may be useful to track contextual data that helps to explain changes in the population between years. This can include information such as the:

  • rental vacancy rates
  • number of people in core housing need
  • number of people in permanent supportive housing (Housing First) or long term transitional housing

Core questions

The nationally coordinated PiT count approach includes a set of common questions that are asked across all participating communities. This includes screening questions that decide whether someone is selected to answer the full survey. The answers to these questions are used by communities to help understand the experience of homelessness locally and to plan services to prevent and end homelessness. They also contribute to the understanding of homelessness across Canada. You can find more information about these questions and how to conduct the survey in the Guide to Point-in-Time Counts in Canada.

Core screening questions

Screening question A

Have you answered this survey with a person with this [identification for example, button]?

  • yes
  • no

Screening question B

Are you willing to participate in the survey?

  • yes
  • no

If a respondent answers “no”, the survey would end here and the respondents would be thanked for their participation.

Screening question C

Where are you staying tonight?

  1. decline to answer
  2. own apartment or house
  3. someone else's place
  4. motel or hotel (self-funded)
  5. hospital
  6. treatment centre
  7. jail, prison, remand centre
  8. homeless shelter (emergency, domestic violence shelter)
  9. hotel or motel (funded by city or homeless program)
  10. transitional shelter or housing
  11. unsheltered in a public space (for example, street, parks, bus shelter, forest or abandoned building)
  12. encampment (for example group of tents, makeshift shelters or other long-term outdoor settlements)
  13. vehicle (car, van, RV, truck, boat)
  14. unsure: indicate probable location (b. to m.)

Core survey questions

Survey question 1

Do you have family members or anyone else who is staying with you tonight?

  • none
  • partner [note survey number of partner]
  • child(ren) or dependent(s) [indicate age and gender]
  • others (can include other family or friends) [insert answer]
  • decline to answer

Survey question 2

How old are you [or] What year were you born? [If unsure, ask for best estimate].

  • age (in years): [insert age]
  • or year born: [insert year]
  • don't know
  • decline to answer


For this survey, "homelessness" means any time when you have been without a permanent and secure place to live, including:

  • sleeping in shelters
  • sleeping on the streets, or
  • living temporarily with others without having your own permanent housing (for example, couch surfing)

Survey question 3

How old were you the first time you experienced homeless?

  • age (in years): [insert age]
  • don't know
  • decline to answer

Survey questions 4

In total, for how much time have you experienced homelessness over the past year (the last 12 months)? [Does not need to be exact. Best estimate.]

  • length [insert number, indicating: days, weeks or months]
  • don't know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 5

Have you stayed in a homeless shelter in the past year? For example, (community note: Include examples of emergency shelters and extreme weather shelters for interviewers to provide).

  • yes
  • no
  • don't know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 6

Did you come to Canada as an immigrant, refugee, or a refugee claimant (made a refugee claim after arriving in Canada)?

  • yes, immigrant
  • yes, refugee
  • yes, refugee claimant
  • no
  • don't know
  • decline to answer

[If yes] How long have you been in Canada?

  • length [insert number, indicating days, weeks, months or years]
  • or date [insert date] [day, month, year]
  • don't know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 7

How long have you been in (community name)?

  • length [insert number, indicating days, weeks or months]
  • always been here
  • don't know
  • decline to answer

[If length indicated] Where did you live before you came here?

  • indicate community and province or country [insert answer]
  • decline to answer

Survey question 8a

Do you identify as First Nations (with or without status), Métis, or Inuit, or do you have North American Indigenous ancestry? [If yes, please specify] (community note: The wording of this question can be adapted to what makes sense in your community, for example by listing specific First Nations)

  • yes, First Nations
  • yes, Inuit
  • yes, Métis
  • yes, Indigenous Ancestry
  • no
  • don’t know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 8b

In addition to your response in the question above, do you identify with any of the racial identities listed below? [Show or read list. Select all that apply].

  • Arab (for example, Syrian, Egyptian, Yemeni)
  • Asian-East (for example, Chinese, Korean, Japanese)
  • Asian-South-East (for example, Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Malaysian, Laotian)
  • Asian-South or Indo Caribbean (for example, Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Indo-Guyanese, Indo-Trinidadian)
  • Asian-West (for example, Iranian, Afghan)
  • Black-Canadian or American
  • Black-African (for example, Ghanaian, Ethiopian, Nigerian)
  • Black-Afro-Caribbean or Afro-Latinx (for example, Jamaican, Haitian, Afro-Brazilian)
  • Latin American (for example, Brazilian, Mexican, Chilean, Cuban)
  • White (for example, European, French, Ukrainian, Euro-Latinx)
  • not listed (please specify)
  • identify as Indigenous only
  • don’t know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 9

Have you ever served in the Canadian military or the RCMP? [prompt: Military includes the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force].

  • yes, Military
  • yes, RCMP
  • both Military and RCMP
  • no
  • don't know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 10

As a child or youth, were you ever in foster care or in a youth group home (community note: include any other Provincial child welfare programs)? [Note: This question applies specifically to child welfare programs.]

  • yes
  • no
  • don’t know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 11

Do you identify as having any of the following health challenges at this time?

  • illness or medical condition [for example, diabetes, arthritis, TB, HIV]:
    • yes
    • no
    • don’t know
    • decline to answer
  • physical limitation [for example, challenges with mobility, physical abilities or dexterity]:
    • yes
    • no
    • don’t know
    • decline to answer
  • learning or cognitive limitations [for example, dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder, or as a result of ADHD or an acquired brain injury]:
    • yes
    • no
    • don’t know
    • decline to answer
  • mental health issue [for example, depression, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder]:
    • yes
    • no
    • don’t know
    • decline to answer
  • substance use issue [for example, tobacco, alcohol, opiates]:
    • yes
    • no
    • don’t know
    • decline to answer

Survey question 12

What gender do you identify with? [Show list]

  • man
  • woman
  • two spirit
  • trans man
  • trans woman
  • non-binary (genderqueer)
  • not listed: [insert answer]
  • don't know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 13

How do you describe your sexual orientation, for example straight, gay, lesbian? [Show list]

  • straight or heterosexual
  • gay
  • lesbian
  • bisexual
  • two spirit
  • pansexual
  • asexual
  • questioning
  • queer
  • not listed: [insert answer]
  • don't know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 14a

What happened that caused you to lose your housing most recently? [Do not read the options. Check all that apply. “Housing” does not include temporary arrangements (for example, couch surfing) or shelter stays. Follow up for the reason if the respondent says “eviction” or that they “chose to leave”.]

  • not enough income for housing [for example, loss of benefit, income or job]
  • unfit or unsafe housing condition
  • building sold or renovated
  • owner moved in
  • landlord and tenant conflict
  • complaint [for example, pets, noise, damages]
  • left the community or relocated
  • conflict with spouse or partner
  • conflict with parent or guardian
  • conflict with: other [insert answer]
  • experienced abuse by spouse or partner
  • experienced abuse by parent or guardian
  • experienced abuse by: other [insert answer]
  • departure of family member
  • experienced discrimination
  • physical health issue
  • mental health issue
  • substance use issue
  • hospitalization or treatment program
  • incarceration (jail or prison)
  • other reason [insert answer]
  • don't know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 14b

Was your most recent housing loss related to the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • yes
  • no
  • don’t know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 14c

How long ago did that happen (that you lost your housing most recently)? (best estimate).

  • length [insert answer and indicate: days, weeks, months or years]
  • don’t know
  • decline to answer

Survey question 15

What are your sources of income? [Reminder that this survey is anonymous. Read list and check all that apply].

  • full time employment
  • part time employment
  • casual employment (for example, contract work)
  • informal income sources (for example, bottle returns, panhandling)
  • money from family or friends
  • employment insurance
  • disability benefit (for example, name of provincial disability benefit)
  • seniors benefits (for example, CPP, OAS or GIS)
  • welfare or social assistance (for example, name of provincial benefit)
  • veteran or VAC Benefits
  • child and family tax benefits
  • GST or HST refund
  • other money from a service agency
  • other source: [insert answer]
  • no income
  • don’t know
  • decline to answer

Contact us

If you have any questions about these standards.
Email: HPD.DATA-DONNEES.DPMI@infc.gc.ca