Census count of area homeless population to start Tuesday

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Credit: Paul Sancya

Credit: Paul Sancya

The Census Bureau will begin counting the homeless population across the country starting Tuesday.

The count will run from Sept. 22 to 24. Census workers and area service providers will go to shelters, soup kitchens and mobile food van stops to count local people experiencing homelessness. They will also count people living outside at locations that area people who are homeless are known to sleep, the Census Bureau said.

“Just because these people don’t have housing doesn’t mean they don’t count,” said Bryan Fraley, associate director of shelter ministries for St. Vincent de Paul.

The count for those experiencing homelessness was originally scheduled for March 30 through April 1, but the coronavirus forced those activities to be delayed. Local service providers will partner with Census workers to count the homeless population in the Miami Valley.

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Because of the coronavirus, Daybreak shelter for youth is not allowing visitors inside, and will count youth staying with them for Census workers. Census workers will go to three different St. Vincent locations next week. Fraley said people staying at the St. Vincent shelter on Apple Street will be counted on Sept. 23, those staying at the men’s shelter on Gettysburg will get counted Sept. 24 and people who St. Vincent is putting up in a hotel will be counted on Sept. 25.

Area hotels and motels have partnered with local shelters to provide services for those experiencing homelessness since the pandemic started, said Brianna Wooten, spokeswoman for Montgomery County.

Wooten said the Human Services Planning Development department works with partners like St. Vincent and Daybreak to ensure households experiencing homelessness are counted in the census.

“We provide Census leadership with local contacts for emergency shelters and street outreach programs, so that helps coordinate counting methodology and survey efforts,” Wooten said.

The county also works with census staff to increase participation at several multi-family, affordable housing sites, where families who were recently homeless live or might live.

“It’s really important that census data is accurate because the statistical formula is used to allocate federal dollars, and many of those dollars are targeted at preventing homelessness,” Wooten said. “It allows us access to greater resources to address those issues and improve housing issues in the community.”

People who are experiencing financial hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic and can’t pay their rent or mortgage are encouraged to reach out to Montgomery County’s assistance program through the CARES Act, Wooten said.

“The Census Bureau is committed to counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place,” said Steven Dillingham, director of the Census Bureau, in a media release. “To reach everyone living in the United States, our census takers are conducting special operations to count people experiencing homelessness to ensure we have a complete and accurate 2020 count.”

A complete and accurate 2020 Census count help places such as St. Vincent and Daybreak provide better services and offer improved shelter options to those in need.

“Adequate funding is the heart of the matter,” said Joan Schiml, Daybreak’s chief development officer. “If we don’t know how many transition-age youth need shelter, we can’t accurately see grant money or provide those services. This is a population that is often invisible and getting them counted gets them representation.”

Schiml said Daybreak opened its drop-in center, where youth can get set up with services but not stay at the shelter , because Census data showed there were people from ages 18-24 they weren’t reaching. Schiml said Daybreak has served 200 people at their drop-in center this year.

“Census data shines a light on what’s happening among our citizens,” Schiml said. “If we don’t know a problem is there, how can we address it?"

Schiml said that the number of homeless people in the Miami Valley had been growing before the coronavirus pandemic, but the pandemic and resulting shutdown added “an extra layer" to the issue.

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