The annual census of people experiencing homelessness is easier and more accurate in 2020, thanks to an app created by a 26-year-old software developer from Tampa.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires local agencies across the country to conduct the count over a 24-hour period during the last 10 days of January. As part of the Point-in-Time (PIT) count, agencies ask questions that help HUD determine, for example, how many people experiencing homelessness are veterans, children, or people fleeing domestic violence.
Traditionally, volunteers are sent with stacks of paper forms to parks, under bridges, and into the woods to interview people experiencing homelessness. There they must juggle asking delicate questions, maintaining their personal safety, navigating the complex paper forms, and maintaining legible handwriting (often at night). Once the PIT count is over, the hundreds of paper forms are gathered up and agency employees spend weeks sifting through and standardizing the entries.
Hyperion Data’s new app (named “Hyperion”) was designed to eliminate the challenges of paper forms and to streamline reporting the results to HUD, says Zak Miller, who created the app and brought it to market.
Because the app guides volunteers through the questions, they don’t have to worry about skipping them or asking questions that don’t apply. And because they navigate the app on their phones, they can see what they’re doing, even in the dark.
Agencies like the app because it gives the organizers more visibility during the count, Miller says. Because they can see where surveys are being conducted in real time, organizers can move volunteers to where they’re most needed for the count. Once the count is over the agencies have the data immediately, ready to submit to HUD.
The communities surveyed also benefit from using Hyperion. Local nonprofits can leverage the data collected to both prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place and more effectively help those who are.
Miller, a 2015 graduate of the University of Florida, founded Hyperion Data in 2018 and left his job in 2019 to focus on building the app in time for the 2020 PIT count.
This year, 864 volunteers used Hyperion to submit data about over 6000 people, Miller says, across fourteen organizations in seven states. Hyperion is now available to all organizations for the 2021 count. For more information, visit http://www.pointintimecount.com.