Enumerating the Hidden Homeless: Strategies to Estimate the Homeless Gone Missing From a Point-in-Time Count

Open access


To receive federal homeless funds, communities are required to produce statistically reliable, unduplicated counts or estimates of homeless persons in sheltered and unsheltered locations during a one-night period (within the last ten days of January) called a point-in-time (PIT) count. In Los Angeles, a general population telephone survey was implemented to estimate the number of unsheltered homeless adults who are hidden from view during the PIT count. Two estimation approaches were investigated: i) the number of homeless persons identified as living on private property, which employed a conventional household weight for the estimated total (Horvitz-Thompson approach); and ii) the number of homeless persons identified as living on a neighbor’s property, which employed an additional adjustment derived from the size of the neighborhood network to estimate the total (multiplicity-based approach). This article compares the results of these two methods and discusses the implications therein.


  • The American Association for Public Opinion Research (2011). Standard Definitions: Final Dispositions of Case Codes and Outcome Rates for Surveys, (7th edition): AAPOR.

  • Birnbaum, Z.W. and Sirken, M.G. (1965). Design of Sample Surveys to Estimate the Prevalence of Rare Diseases: Three Unbiased Estimates. Vital and Health Statistics, Series 2, No. 11. DHEW publication no (PHS) 1000. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1-8.

  • Blaise 4.8 [computer software] (2007). Voorburg/Heerlen: Statistics Netherlands.

  • Bring Los Angeles Home: The Campaign to End Homelessness (2006). Los Angeles Housing Services Authority, Web. Available at: http://www.bringlahome.org/docs/BRINGLAHOME_book_final.pdf (accessed January 6, 2010).

  • Flores-Cervantes, I. and Kalton, G. (2008). Methods for Sampling Rare Populations in Telephone Surveys. In Advances in Telephone Survey Methodology, J.M. Lepkowski, C. Tucker, J.M. Brick, E.D. de Leeuw, L. Japec, P.J. Lavrakas, M.W. Link, and R.L. Sangster (eds). New York: Wiley and Sons.

  • Kalsbeek, W.D. and Agans, R.P. (2008). Sampling and Weighting in Household Telephone Surveys. In Advances in Telephone Survey Methodology, J.M. Lepkowski, C. Tucker, J.M. Brick, E.D. de Leeuw, L. Japec, P.J. Lavrakas, M.W. Link, and R.L. Sangster (eds). New York: Wiley and Sons.

  • Kalton, G. (2009). Methods for Oversampling Rare Subpopulations in Social Surveys. Survey Methodology, 35, 125-141.

  • Kish, L. (1965). Survey Sampling. New York: Wiley and Sons.

  • Link, B.G., Susser, E., Stueve, A., Phelan, J., Moore, R.E., and Struening, E. (1994). Lifetime and Five-Year Prevalence of Homelessness in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 84, 1907-1912, DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.84.12.1907.

  • Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (2009). Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count Report. Available at: http://www.lahsa.org/docs/2011-Homeless-Count/HC11-Detailed-Geography-Report-FINAL.PDF (accessed October 13, 2012).

  • Potter, F. (1988). Survey of Procedures to Control Extreme Sampling Weights Proceedings of the American Statistical Association Section on Survey Research Methods, 453-458.

  • SAS Statistical Software [computer program]. (Version 9.3), Cary, North Carolina.

  • SUDAAN [computer program] (Version 10). Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

  • Sudman, S. and Freeman, H.E. (1988). The Use of Network Sampling for Locating the Seriously Ill. Medical Care, 26, 992-999.

  • Tompsett, C.J., Toro, P.A., Guzicki, M., Schlienz, N., Blume, M., and Lombardo, S. (2003). Homelessness in the US and Germany: A Cross-National Analysis. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 13, 240-257, DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1002/casp.724.

  • Tompsett, C.J. and Toro, P.A. (2004). Public Opinion. Encyclopedia of Homelessness: SAGE Publications. Available at: http://sageereference.com/homelessness/Article_n133.html (accessed January 18, 2010).

  • Toro, P.A. and Janisse, H.C. (2004). Homelessness, patterns of. In D. Levinson (ed.). Encyclopedia of homelessness (pp 244-250) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • Toro, P.A., Tompsett, C.J., Lombardo, S., Phillippot, P., Nachtergael, H., Galand, B., Schlienz, N., Stammel, N., Yabar, Y., Blume, M., MacKay, L., and Harvey, K. (2007). Homelessness in Europe and the United States: A Comparison of Prevalence and Public Opinion. Journal of Social Issues, 63, 505-524, DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2007.00521.x.

  • Toro, P.A. (2005). Community Psychology: Where Do We Go from Here? American Journal of Community Psychology, 35, 9-16, DOI: http://www.dx.doi.org/

  • 10.1007/s10464-005-1883-y.

  • Toro, P.A. (2006). Trials, Tribulations, and Occasional Jubilations While Conducting Research With Homeless Children, Youth, and Families. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 52, Academic OneFile. Available at: http://find.galegroup.com/gtx/start.do?prodId¼AONE&userGroupName¼unc_main. (accessed January 11, 2010).

Journal of Official Statistics

The Journal of Statistics Sweden

Journal Information

IMPACT FACTOR 2016: 0.411
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.776

CiteScore 2016: 0.63

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.710
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.975


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 43 43 32
PDF Downloads 16 16 9