The Basics of LexCount

What is LexCount?

LexCount is Lexington’s annual point-in-time (PIT) count of all people experiencing homelessness (including emergency shelter, transitional housing, or unsheltered homelessness) in Lexington on a single night in January. Conducting the LexCount ensures that we remain eligible for federal funding, helps us assess local needs, and provides critical insights into our progress towards ending and preventing homelessness year by year. 

What happens on the night of LexCount?

During LexCount, teams of volunteers will canvass a specific area and ask unsheltered community members if they are open to answering some housing-related questions. Every volunteer is trained and given the same survey questions to ensure accuracy. 

Because LexCount often coincides with harsh winter weather, LexCount volunteers also distribute care packages containing items such as hats, gloves, socks, scarves, hygiene products, hand warmers, bottled water, packaged snacks, hand sanitizer, and even bus passes. While this ensures that people experiencing homelessness have access to necessary items, it also allows us to conduct expanded outreach and facilitate access to emergency shelter.

What kind of information does LexCount collect?

LexCount seeks to understand a person’s experience with homelessness holistically, including where someone is currently living, how long someone has experienced homelessness, how many times they have experienced homelessness before, and how many people are living with this person. LexCount also collects demographic information, such as a person’s gender, race, ethnicity, and disability status, as well as information from legal adults about their history serving in the armed forces, being in the foster care system, experiencing any kind of abuse, and using drugs or alcohol. 

How is LexCount data used?

LexCount data offers a wide variety of valuable information about homelessness in Lexington. It is primarily used to:

  1. Help us learn more about the types of homelessness individuals are experiencing. This is vital for development of programs and services. Those experiencing chronic homelessness, for example, tend to have more intensive needs and need longer-term support. Understanding how many are experiencing homelessness for the first time helps to identify risk factors and develop programming to prevent homelessness and divert away from a cycle of homelessness.
  2. Assist in our understanding of demographic trends and engage in racial equity analysis. By assessing how many persons of particular groups are presenting within our homeless system, we first need to know if groups are over or underrepresented within the homeless system as compared to the overall population. We also compare the demographics of those accessing Coordinated Entry, enrolled in housing programs, and exiting to permanent housing to understand whether disparities exist with access to services and/or our service outcomes.
  3. Facilitate connection to follow-up services. For example, LexCount asks if individuals are veterans. As we have effectively ended veteran homelessness, we have plenty of resources that we can connect individuals to in order to quickly and permanently rehouse them. We ask all unsheltered persons if they give consent for street outreach to conduct follow-up and how they might be able to do so (location, contact info, etc.). While street outreach teams work year-round, LexCount allows us to canvas a much larger area efficiently and effectively.
  4. Identify physical and medical health risks. By asking about disabling conditions, substance use, mental illness, domestic violence, and conditions such as HIV/AIDS, we can learn more about the needs for targeted programming as well as identifying what kinds of training and education frontline staff might need (such as harm reduction, safety planning, mental health first aid, trauma-informed care, etc.).
  5. Advocate for homelessness intervention and prevention services in other areas. LexCount seeks to understand where someone’s homelessness began and how and why someone came to Fayette County. This may not seem like necessary information, but understanding in-flow from surrounding areas allows us to communicate with other local governments, demonstrate a need for them to develop resources, and support them in doing so. 

Aside from the information gathered during the PIT count, LexCount is an excellent opportunity to create public awareness about homelessness. Media coverage brings the issue of local homelessness and housing instability to people who may not have encountered information about it otherwise. 

Who sees the LexCount data?

We share the results of LexCount publicly, meaning that all community members, Continuum of Care partners, and human service providers can learn more about homelessness in Lexington. We also present the results to the Urban County Council and the administration to educate local Councilmembers on local progress, trends, and needs. Finally, we share results with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which offers us more funding opportunities based on our local needs and progress.

How can I support LexCount?

One key way to support LexCount is to volunteer. Each January, we put out a call for community members who are interested in participating in LexCount. It is a great opportunity for those looking to get involved in local advocacy work, expand their knowledge of how to work with people experiencing homelessness, or extend their community services. 

You can also support Lex End Homelessness’ work year-round by viewing our online Advocacy Tips, attending an Advocacy, Issues and Programs Committee Meeting, joining the Continuum of Care, donating to the LEH campaign, or by following us on social media @lexendhomelessness.