Skip to main content
US Census

Why the Census Matters for Homelessness

by Danielle Hubley
Policy Analyst, Partnership for Strong Communities

The U.S. Constitution requires that our nation’s population be counted every ten years. This historic method of tracking is integral to our democracy and helps us to ensure that everyone who is living here has equal access and representation in important governmental and private sector resources. The Census uses this data to:

  • Allocate seats and draw district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures and local boards;
  • Target over $800 billion annually in federal assistance to states, localities and families;
  • And guide community decision-making as it relates to schools, housing, healthcare services, business investments and many other critical services.

All this to say, an accurate count is historically important in making sure communities have the resources they need when and where they are needed most. As we wake up today facing an evolving global health crisis, with states deploying funds and policies to their communities to combat the coronavirus and ensure the safety and health of all residents, the need for everyone to be counted becomes even more important. Making sure our communities are able to sustain help to those who need it and have the capacity to minimize the longer-term consequences of physical distancing and non-essential operations being shut down for the foreseeable future is becoming increasingly paramount.

There are some populations in the country that are deemed “hard-to-count”, or those at higher risk of being missed in the effort to get an accurate count. By not being counted, we risk creating inequalities in political representation and limiting access to the vital public/private resources that may benefit these individuals and families. Some of the barriers that can make it harder for individuals/families to be counted include living in a doubled-up or a temporary location, living in unsheltered locations like their cars or on the streets, having limited access to the internet, and those who are experiencing homelessness as a youth or young adult who may not be aware of the services/supports available to them. 

As it relates to homelessness, completing the Census helps to determine how more than $675 billion is allocated among various critical services and supports like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), community centers, libraries, housing assistance, Medicare, employment services, and many other important resources your community may need for the next ten years.

While the coronavirus has delayed the Census Bureau’s efforts to begin counting and connecting with populations experiencing homelessness to now begin on April 29th through May 1st, Census staff are still working with local groups to identify outdoor and other locations where people are known to sleep, and are planning to coordinate with emergency/transitional shelters, soup kitchens, and mobile food vans to count people at these locations through direct interviews and facility records.

The Reaching Home Campaign is engaged in efforts to integrate and enhance the voices/partnerships of people with lived experience of homelessness. Encouraging all Connecticut residents’ participation in the Census helps to remind everyone that they have a voice in policy decision-making, and their voice and experiences should be guiding these decisions. Not only at our tables and in our state, but within our country as well.

For more resources, please visit www.2020census.gov, or see below for some fact sheets and information provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help ensure everyone’s voice is heard in a time where our voices are needed most:

“The Census has posted [the following] resources to explain how they count people experiencing homelessness, how privacy and confidentiality are preserved, and how organizations can assist with the count. Additionally, the Census has published contact information for its Regional Census Centers if you have questions about the count or who is contacting you.”

Persons Experiencing Homelessness, the Highly Mobile, and Renters

Safety and Confidentiality: