[Hpn] More on U.S. Census & Homeless: 2 Articles: AP 6/27/01;NY Times 6/28/01
Morgan W. Brown
Wed, 27 Jun 2001 23:23:51 -0400
Below are forwards of two more articles on the growing controversy over the
2000 U.S. census and counting people who are homeless.
First is an AP article out of Washington, D. C. entitled
"Homeless Census Draws Criticism"; Wednesday, June 27, 2001.
Second is an article from the New York Times entitled "Bureau Won't
Distribute Census Data on Homeless"; Thursday, June 28, 2001.
Morgan W. Brown
Homeless Census Draws Criticism
Updated: Wed, Jun 27 6:31 PM EDT
By GENARO C. ARMAS, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Homeless Americans were counted in the 2000 census. It is
just unclear from the results how many there were.
That has angered some House Democrats and city officials from across the
country. They are demanding that the Census Bureau say exactly how many
homeless people it found last year, instead of grouping them into a less
specific category called "other noninstitutionalized group quarters."
A detailed homeless count is essential for city officials and advocacy
groups to plan budgets for shelters and other homeless outreach programs,
Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and
others said Wednesday
Bureau officials said the homeless people they did find during an
exhaustive, three-day count last year were included in total population
figures for states, counties and municipalities.
But those homeless Americans were not identified as such in the results
because of a fear that it could be misinterpreted as an official government
count of a population that is difficult to track, said Edison Gore, a deputy
chief at the Census Bureau.
The bureau had planned to release a count of people living in shelters as
part of the wave of information currently being released.
Gore said bureau officials decided against it after an analysis of early
2000 census results in January. Census officials will instead release a
separate report next year on Americans counted in shelters.
The report would give the bureau an appropriate forum to stress that the
data should not be misconstrued as an official homeless count, Gore said.
In response, Maloney called the Census Bureau "the censor bureau."
Barbara Duffield, education director for the National Coalition for the
Homeless, supported the policy. The coalition worked with the bureau before
the census and urged against any count that specified the homeless
"People experiencing homelessness should be counted irregardless of housing
status," she said. "But we also said there should not be a separate homeless
count because it is impossible to do and misleading."
Still, some city officials and local shelters said they thought a specific
count of the homeless would be released, especially after many of the groups
helped the bureau track the homeless down.
"I'd rather have (the numbers) now. It's almost been a year since we've done
it," said Candis Brady, communications director for the 700-bed Shelter for
the Homeless in Midway City, Calif. "It could help in getting funding for
Leslie Leitch, director of Baltimore's Office of Homeless Services, said she
also thought the census was going to release more detailed figures. Now, she
said, her city may have to go out and do their own survey of people in soup
kitchens and living on the streets.
The bureau did release detailed results of a one-night survey of the
homeless following the 1990 census, but it became the target of criticism
from people who said there was an undercount. In 1992, Baltimore and San
Francisco joined advocacy groups in a federal lawsuit that demanded a
recount of the homeless.
Gore said 1990 numbers were misinterpreted by critics, and hoped to avoid
the same confusion this year.
Unofficial government estimates have placed the number of people who are
homeless at some point during a year at 3.5 million.
---End of forwarded AP article---
Thursday, June 28, 2001
New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com>
National news section
Bureau Won't Distribute Census Data on Homeless
By STEVEN A. HOLMES
WASHINGTON, June 27 — Reversing the way it handled the data 10 years ago,
the Census Bureau says it will not provide states and cities with the
figures on their homeless populations.
The bureau has said that nationally 280,527 people — up from 228,621 people
in 1990 — were counted in homeless shelters, at soup kitchens, on the
streets and at other places identified by local governments in 2000.
"Bear in mind, there was good reason after what happened after the '90
census to think that the numbers would be misused," said Edison Gold, deputy
chief of the 2000 Decennial Census in explaining why the bureau did not
release the homeless figures. The state and city homeless counts released in
1990 were widely viewed as inaccurate.
The decision against release was made several years ago but was overlooked
by many people. It has been criticized by planners from big cities who say
they were urged by the bureau to undertake extraordinary and expensive
measures to help count the homeless during the 2000 census.
At the bureau's request, for example, Los Angeles officials recruited
advocates for the homeless, trained them in conducting the census, provided
escorts for census takers in potentially dangerous places and handed out
blankets and hygiene kits to induce the homeless to cooperate.
"We spent a lot of money on this," said Jessica Heinz, an assistant city
attorney in Los Angeles, "probably about $300,000, and donated a lot of
The Census Bureau action was praised by advocates for the homeless who had
lobbied for the bureau not to release separate figures on homeless people.
For the most part, advocates for the homeless cooperated with the census 10
years ago. Afterward, they said they were appalled when a count they
considered flawed was used by some lawmakers to argue for a reduction in
spending on programs for the homeless.
But some city planners argue that the idea of holding back data because it
could be misinterpreted goes against the bureau's mission to be the provider
of data, not its censor.
"If the bureau thinks there is going to be a problem and people will be
confused about the homeless population," said Joseph Salvo, director of the
population division of the New York City Planning Department, "then the
bureau should educate people, not hold back the data. This could happen with
other populations. Should the bureau hold back data on them too?"
The decision is part of what has become a continuing dispute over how to
count the country's homeless population — a group of people that is
transient and difficult to count. The bureau method of counting people who
live in shelters, at soup kitchens and at various street locations can miss
designating as homeless those people who may have lost their homes and are
temporarily living with friends or relatives.
In 1990, some advocates for the homeless, fearful of a large undercount,
urged some providers of services to the homeless to bar census takers from
entering shelters and soup kitchens.
"The homeless is not a static population," said Barbara Duffield, education
director for the National Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group
based in Washington. "It's very misleading to have such a count; it's
virtually impossible and leads to distortion as to the nature of
homelessness and the magnitude of the problem."
Instead of providing state and local figures, the Census Bureau this year
has lumped the homeless into a category of people counted in "other
non-institutional group quarters." In addition to homeless people, this
category includes displaced people living in temporary shelters after
natural disasters, people living in shelters for battered women, and nurses
and interns living in dormitories at military and general hospitals.
The bureau has also been criticized for not releasing information on why it
recommended that the census not be adjusted to compensate for people who
were missed or counted twice.
Some cities, including Los Angeles, have sued the bureau in a bid to force
it to release the results of a survey of 314,000 households that was
designed to check the accuracy of the census. The agency has refused to do
so, and critics say it is suppressing the results of the survey because it
would indicate that adjustment was justified.
Although the dispute of the homeless count is not directly related to the
issue of adjustment, the bureau's action on the homeless has fed the
controversy that surrounds the 2000 census.
"I don't think this is just about the homeless," Ms. Heinz said. "I think
it's the whole thing. Their view is if we hold stuff back that looks like it
has problems, then no one will criticize us."
---End of forwarded NY Times article---
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-------End of forwards-------
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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