[Hpn] Census homeless count isn't exact: Recording transients is a challenge ...

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Mon, 30 Jul 2001 09:30:13 -0400


-------Forwarded article-------

Monday, July 30, 2001
Indianapolis Star <http://www.indystar.com>
[Indianapolis, Indiana, USA]
City & State section
Census homeless count isn't exact

Recording transients is a challenge because they often move before numbers 
are released.

By John Fritze
Indianapolis Star
July 30, 2001

James Heineman is looking for spot jobs.

He advertises on a folded sign tucked behind his bag, which he has carried 
from Kentucky to Tennessee to Indiana -- from shelter to shelter and street 
to street.

"I am the least of His homeless," the sign reads. "Need light spot job. 
Please, thanks."

Work is sporadic, so Heineman has kept moving. But his mobility -- a common 
trait of the homeless -- makes him hard to count.

The U.S. Census Bureau now plans to release more detailed data on the number 
of people visiting homeless shelters and living on the streets. But even the 
bureau acknowledges that a solid count of the homeless is hard to produce.

That leaves uncertainty hanging over people who could benefit most from an 
accurate count.

"I think there may be inferences people can make from the statistics the 
bureau collects," said census expert Carol Rogers, with the Indiana Business 
Research Center. "But to ever be able to call it a direct homeless count? I 
don't think that's possible."

The government conducts so-called street and shelter counts in late March. 
But because some homeless, like Heineman, move around, it's unlikely 
Indianapolis' count is the same now as it was in the spring.

In fact, Heineman was counted in Tennessee.

"I felt like homeless people should get counted because we are a political 
contingent, even though most of us don't realize it," he said as he clutched 
a paperback biography of George Washington.

Indianapolis received about $4.8million in federal grants this year for 
homeless programs, including transitional housing, according to the city's 
Department of Metropolitan Development.

But the city, like others across the nation, tends to rely on homeless 
counts produced locally. Here, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention 
and Prevention estimates that 3,500 people are homeless on any night -- 30 
percent of them, or 1,050, are children.

"Counting the homeless . . . can be done scientifically, but it's not an 
exact science," said Joe Fahy, coalition planning director. "Nevertheless, 
it's an essential planning tool for what we're doing here."

The bureau delayed releasing the results of its street and shelter count, 
mainly because it was concerned that data would be perceived literally as 
the number of homeless living in any given city.

After public outcry, the bureau announced the numbers probably would be 
released this fall.

For Heineman, who stood in line at a local shelter to look at donated 
clothes, those concerns were moot.

"I wanted to be counted as a citizen of the United States," he said.

And he was.

Contact John Fritze at 1-317-327-4362 or via e-mail at 


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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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