The Youth Count Coordinator & Lead Agency

Youth Count Partners

All PiT Counts require a PiT Count Coordinator. The Coordinator should be employed and accountable to the Lead Agency – the service or organization responsible for planning and executing the PiT Count. The PiT Count Coordinator, alongside the Lead Agency, is responsible for building community support, liaising with stakeholders, managing the budget and adhering to the agreed-upon timelines.

“The PiT Count Coordinator will require a range of skills and qualifications. The individual should have a thorough understanding of homelessness, particularly in your local context. The PiT Count Coordinator should also have demonstrated success in coordinating large-scale community projects. Ideally the Coordinator will have a range of pre-existing relationships with key stakeholders in the community.”

-Excerpt from the COH Point-in-Time Count Toolkit

A Focus on Youth

A Youth Count Coordinator should have experience working with vulnerable youth or alternatively, conducting research on youth homelessness.

In addition to a working knowledge of youth homelessness, it is beneficial for a Youth Count Coordinator to have pre-existing relationships with local youth-serving agencies. This will reduce the time it takes to engage stakeholders at the outset of the count.

Youth Count Resource

Download a sample job description for a Youth Count Coordinator.

Finally, consider your local context carefully. In many communities, Indigenous and LGBTQ youth are overrepresented among youth experiencing homelessness. Further, newcomer youth can be disproportionately overrepresented. Consider these priority areas when assessing the strengths of a potential Youth Count Coordinator candidate. 

Building Alignment: Tips & Strategies

A separate Youth Count will require a dedicated PiT Count Coordinator. If you are building alignment with a general PiT Count, you may need an alternative leadership structure. For example, in discussion with the general PiT Count organizers, you may decide it most efficient to employ only one PiT Count Coordinator who is responsible for both the general PiT Count and the Youth Count (example 3). In smaller communities, this may be an option. In most communities, we recommend having a designated Coordinator for the Youth Count (example 2). This Coordinator may act as an Assistant Coordinator and work closely with the main PiT Count Coordinator (example 1). 


Three examples of leadership structures.

A range of stakeholders is required to execute a PiT Count. Building community-wide support should not be seen as an obstacle, but rather as an opportunity to build relationships and working partnerships that will remain long after the PiT Count has occurred. Ultimately, the PiT Count is an opportunity to improve the strength of your local response to youth homelessness.

“A PiT Count can help to inform and educate key stakeholders, including the general public, media, policy makers, the business sector, social services sector and people experiencing homelessness. Cross-sector collaboration will encourage buy-in and provide additional resources to support the count, including money, volunteers, supplies and expert knowledge.” Excerpt from the COH Point-in-Time Count Toolkit

A Focus on Youth

Youth experiencing homelessness are less likely to be connected to homeless-serving agencies. Further, some youth go to great lengths to remain hidden from the police, school officials and child protection services. An effective Youth Count will therefore require input from a range of stakeholders – be creative! Communities with few youth-specific services will need to partner with more generalized services such as food banks or community centres.


It takes time and resources to build partnerships. Your community may be resistant to making this investment. Partnerships will strengthen as you conduct successive counts, but do not underestimate the importance of building allies during your first count – it will provide the foundation for your success.

How can stakeholders help?

A Youth Count – particularly one happening over multiple days – will require a number of volunteers. Stakeholders familiar with vulnerable youth should be encouraged to volunteer, especially as Team Leaders. However, stakeholders will also be invaluable throughout the planning process. Essential information to gather from stakeholders includes:

  • Where do youth stay during the day? At night?
  • Are there youth encampments in your community? 
  • Where can we recruit youth to participate in the planning and implementation of the count?
  • How can we best advertise the count to youth?
  • What do we need to know about youth homelessness?
  • Is the Youth Count survey appropriate? A reasonable length?

As you plan for your Youth Count, seek input from the following stakeholders:


Youth Shelters and Transitional Housing To conduct a sheltered count – a key component of a Youth Count – you must partner with youth shelters and transitional housing units. Without their cooperation, you will be unable to determine the number of youth experiencing homelessness during the PiT Count. Shelter providers can help you to identify unsheltered locations where youth hang out or sleep. 
Youth Outreach Workers Youth outreach workers can help you to identify known locations or “hotspots” where youth reside, a key component of the unsheltered count. Further, outreach workers can help to promote the count among youth, alleviating any concerns or misconceptions that youth may have about the process. Communities without youth outreach workers should work with general outreach workers, who will possess much of the same knowledge. 
Youth Drop-in Centres Not all youth experiencing homelessness will utilize homeless-serving agencies. Thus, partnering with youth drop-in centres to run events during the Youth Count (see magnet events) will improve the accuracy of your count. Further, drop-in staff can provide input on popular gathering spots for youth.
Police Departments Your local police force will be an important partner as you plan for your Youth Count. As you identify locations for your unsheltered count, police can provide input as to where youth gather and/or sleep. At a minimum, the police should be aware of the count and be on standby, in the unlikely event of an emergency. Police should refrain from “clearing away” any encampments prior to the count. Finally, carefully consider police involvement during the count. Some communities invite plain-clothes officers to volunteer for the count, while others discourage this type of involvement by police.
Schools and/or School Boards Communities that seek to administer the Youth Count survey in schools will need to build close partnerships with the local school boards. Communities without a school component should still consult with school officials to gain their input on the Youth Count methodology and survey. Encourage school staff to volunteer for the Youth Count; doing so may improve their awareness and understanding of youth homelessness.
Services/Programs for Indigenous Youth Across Canada, Indigenous Peoples are overrepresented among individuals experiencing homelessness – so too are Indigenous youth. Partner with Indigenous-serving agencies – ideally those that work with youth – to better understand the unique causes and conditions of homelessness faced by Indigenous Youth. Partner with Indigenous leaders to ensure that Indigenous Youth are accurately and respectfully enumerated as part of your Youth Count. 
Services/Programs for LGBTQ2 Youth It is estimated that between 25-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ2S (Abramovich, 2013). Despite this overrepresentation, many LGBTQ2S youth avoid homeless-serving agencies out of fear for their safety or of discrimination. To ensure that LGBTQ2S youth are accurately enumerated, identify and partner with organizations or agencies that provide services to LGBTQ2S youth. Program staff can provide input on the survey instrument and volunteer training to ensure that the Youth Count is conducted respectfully and safely. 

Building Alignment: Tips & Strategies

In a separate Youth Count, organizers are responsible for all components of the methodology, including the sheltered and unsheltered counts. As indicated in the table above, stakeholders are particularly useful when designing these methodologies. If you are building alignment with a general PiT Count, it is almost certain that the unsheltered and sheltered count will be covered through the general methodology. Further, many of the stakeholders listed above may already be involved in the general count. Nonetheless, it is important that there is also a core group of stakeholders to inform the youth portion of the count. Don’t rely solely on the general PiT Count stakeholders. Work with Indigenous Youth services, LGBTQ2 youth services, schools and other youth-focused providers.

Building Alignment Spotlight

Some parts of the Youth Count methodology will be covered by the general PiT Count methodology, most likely the unsheltered and sheltered count. Work with the general PiT Count organizers to determine who is doing what. It may be that parts of the general PiT Count methodology, such as the youth shelter count, become part of the Youth Count methodology. For more information refer to Where to Count.

More information

For a full list of key stakeholders and ideas for engagement, refer to COH PiT Count Toolkit: Stakeholder Engagement

As you build of a list of stakeholders to engage, consider how best to involve them in the count. Invite key players to sit on a Youth Count Committee. The Committee – chaired by the Lead Agency – will contribute to all aspects of the count, including:

  • Setting key objectives for the count;
  • Developing the Youth Count methodology;
  • Volunteer training and recruitment; and
  • Promoting the count to key stakeholders and the general public.

Depending on the scope of your count, you may decide to elect subcommittees – groups of experts focused on particular sub-topics of the Youth Count. For example, you may form subcommittees to inform survey design, volunteer training, emergency planning or administering the shelter count.

A Focus on Youth

Your ability to effectively engage youth throughout the planning and implementation of your Youth Count will determine the success of your count.

Youth Count Resource!

Download a sample role description and Terms of Reference for your Youth Subcommittee members.

Engaging youth should not be seen as a formality; rather, youth will provide invaluable information about the experiences of homeless youth in your community. You will need their input to know where to find youth during the count, what to ask on the survey and importantly, how to ask it.

There are a number of ways to engage youth in the Youth Count. Consider forming a Youth Subcommittee comprising youth with lived experience. Be sure that you consider the demographic composition of the Sub-Committee: Indigenous Youth, newcomers, LGBTQ youth and women should be represented. Also ensure that youth of all ages are represented. It is likely that youth-serving agencies can recommend potential candidates.

The Youth Sub-Committee should be led by the Youth Count Coordinator, or an appropriate designate of the Lead Agency. Develop Committee Terms of Reference that define the youths’ scope of involvement. Strongly consider compensating youth on the committee – either with pay or a stipend – for their time and expertise. 

For more information about effectively engaging youth, refer to the Youth Engagement Toolkit: Resource Guide produced by British Columbia, Ministry of Children & Family Development. 

More information

Refer to the COH PIT Count Toolkit for a Sample PiT Count Committee Terms of Reference

Building Alignment: Tips & Strategies

The Youth Count, regardless of whether it is a separate count or aligned with a general PiT Count, requires its own Youth Count Committee and Youth-Sub Committee. However, as explained in the Youth Count Coordinator section, there are various ways to structure the Committees if you are aligning with a general PiT Count. Work with the general PiT Count organizers to map out an organizational structure at the start of planning. To facilitate communication, we recommend the Youth Count Coordinator sit on the General PiT Count Committee and the general PiT Count Coordinator sit on the Youth Count Committee. 


Example 1 and 2 for various ways of structuring committees

The media is a key stakeholder in any PiT Count. A PiT Count provides the opportunity to build public support for addressing homelessness; it provides a platform to discuss the issue and combat stereotypes that individuals experiencing homelessness face. However, the benefits of an increased public discourse on homelessness can only be realised if the media has accurate information about the purpose of a PiT Count and its role in the effort to end homelessness.

“Building strong relationships with media, early in the planning process, can improve volunteer recruitment, encourage stakeholder participation and shed light on the issue of homelessness. However, the safety and confidentiality of survey participants should be protected at all times. Procedures must be in place to work with media before, during and after the count.”

- Excerpt from the COH Point-in-Time Count Toolkit

Youth Count Resource!

Download a sample press release for your Youth Count.

A Focus on Youth

While a PiT Count provides an opportunity to build awareness about homelessness, a Youth Count creates a platform to redefine public perceptions about homeless youth. Too often – in-part due to media depictions - youth experiencing homelessness are characterized as delinquent, trouble-making and rebellious. In reality, a wide range of youth, with vastly different experiences, can find themselves without housing. The Youth Count is an opportunity to change the conversation; the media can be your greatest ally in this effort. Consider training one or more of your Youth Count Subcommittee members to engage with the media, from a youth perspective.

Media engagement can improve your Youth Count in the following ways:


Consider branding your count. This can increase media attention and buzz. Seek input from your Youth Subcommittee on branding to appeal to youth. Create stickers, posters and hashtags to promote the brand.

  • Volunteer recruitment will improve as your media partners build buzz and excitement about the Youth Count;
  • A youth-informed social media strategy will improve the likelihood that youth are aware of and support the count, thereby improving participation; and
  • Media coverage can catalyze change, encouraging the public to join the effort to end youth homelessness through volunteering, voting and advocacy.

More information

Refer to the COH Point in Time Count Toolkit: Media Engagement for guidance on:

  • Building media contacts
  • Developing a communications plan
  • Negotiating media participation and
  • Drafting press releases

Helpful Resource

Engaging the Media with PiT Count Data – National Alliance to End Homelessness

Building Alignment: Tips & Strategies

Work with the general PiT Count organizers to develop a communications plan. You will need to determine whether the counts will be branded separately or as one cohesive initiative. Where the counts are led by different lead agencies, or involve separate streams of funding, it may be necessary to differentiate the branding. Either way, ensure the media and the public know that the counts are aligned efforts. Where possible, use clear and consistent messaging.

A PiT Count requires a high degree of coordination, collaboration and community-wide support. A Youth Count should be regarded no differently. A Youth Count is not solely the responsibility of the youth-serving sector rather; it should be a community-wide effort to improve the lives of local youth. The following section provides an overview of the key players needed to plan and implement a successful Youth Count.