[Hpn] After a costly count, census skips homeless
Morgan W. Brown
Sat, 23 Jun 2001 14:58:04 -0400
Below is a forward of yet another article regarding the controversy over the
census and the homeless count, providing additional information, which may
be of interest:
Saturday, June 23, 2001
[Fort Worth, Texas]
After a costly count, census skips homeless
A special report will reflect only the number of people in shelters.
By Jeff Claassen and Yvette Craig
Star-Telegram Staff Writers
After spending millions of dollars counting the nation's homeless in
parks and under bridges, the Census Bureau has decided not to release the
The bureau agreed with advocates for the homeless that it's
impossible to accurately count people who live outside traditional shelters
and that an official homeless census could be misused when local agencies
Census data being released this year will include nothing on the
homeless, said Edison Gore, a division deputy chief for the census. Instead,
a special report including only the number of homeless people in shelters
will be released by next year.
"We decided that we really needed to put those numbers out with some context
and some explanation," Gore said.
After reviewing the data in February, a panel of Census Bureau
demographers and executives decided that the numbers are not
accurate enough to release as an official tally of all homeless
people, Gore said.
Homeless people counted on the street will be lumped in with people living
in other "noninstitutional group quarters," which are dormitories or other
places in which people live that are not
operated by the government.
The Census Bureau hopes the decision will forestall problems
like those created by the 1990 homeless count. But several local social
service agencies expressed surprise this week.
"It really doesn't make any difference to us when the census
numbers come out. But it does strike me as being extremely
weird," said John Suggs, executive director of the Presbyterian
Night Shelter of Tarrant County, near downtown Fort Worth.
"They had a lot of people here counting the homeless people
inside and outside the shelter. Why do all of that work and not
share it with the public?"
Suggs and others in Tarrant County said the census counts
would not play a large role in decision-making for most
Tillie Burgin, director of Mission Arlington, also questioned the
decision to withhold the numbers. "We don't depend on stats,"
she said. "However, the folks are expecting whole truths from
Tarrant County Community Development conducts its own
homeless surveys every two years, in cooperation with the
Tarrant County Homeless Coalition. The 1994 survey found
about 1,730 people living on Tarrant County's streets on most
nights. Estimates based on the 2000 survey indicate that the
number may have jumped to more than 3,780.
In 1990, the Census Bureau counted 25 homeless people
visible on the streets in Tarrant County. The national count was
way off the mark, according to advocates for the homeless in
New York, in other cities and with several national groups.
In 1992, Baltimore and San Francisco joined advocacy groups
in a lawsuit that accused the Census Bureau of botching the
homeless count and violating the constitutional requirement for
a complete count of all Americans.
During meetings several years ago, the National Coalition for
the Homeless urged the bureau to work aggressively to count
the homeless, but also not to release an official count, said
Barbara Duffield, the group's education director.
The coalition wanted a count of homeless people that would
add to the total population figures for states, counties and
cities. Those population statistics steer federal funds and help
decide how many seats each state gets in Congress.
"We also wanted to make sure that there was nothing released
that could be perceived as a homeless count," Duffield said.
"We would not want a city to use that figure because it would
be an undercount."
Counting homeless people accurately is impossible, she said.
"People who are experiencing homelessness are all over the
place - cars, campgrounds and other unsheltered locations that
census people and anybody else will struggle to get to."
The Census Bureau budgeted more than $40 million for the
homeless count, including finding places where homeless
people are likely to seek shelter, census officials said. The total
cost for Census 2000 was $6.2 billion.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., has urged the government to
use statistical methods to account for people who did not
return questionnaires and could not be reached at home. In
February, the bureau decided not to do that, saying the 2000
Census was already accurate enough.
"This is clearly a pattern of behavior that will undermine
confidence in all government statistics," she said.
Jeff Claassen, (817) 390-7710
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
-------End of forward-------
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com