Each January, communities across the country conduct a census, Point-In-Time (PIT) count of their homeless populations. However, this count does not give an accurate picture of the number, characteristics and needs of homeless youth . Data on unaccompanied homeless youth is currently unavailable, as a national standard for counting this cohort has not yet been established. Available PIT data vastly under-represents the number of youth experiencing homelessness and services required to impact poverty conditions. Therefore, in July of 2013, Billings, Montana decided to conduct the first ever survey of homeless youth called Youth Count!
Youth Count! was sponsored by the City of Billings as a component of Welcome Home Billings, the City’s ten-year plan to impact homelessness. This was a joint effort between Tumbleweed Program, Inc. and the Billings Metro VISTA Project originated through the City’s Community Development Division. The survey was created by two AmeriCorps VISTA members, Joshua Downes and Chelsia Davis, who implemented the survey in the community from July 12 until July 14.