[Hpn] Homeless Census Draws Criticism

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Thu, 28 Jun 2001 14:17:31 -0700


Wednesday June 27 6:31 PM ET

Homeless Census Draws Criticism

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 programs.''

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.

Copyright  2001 The Associated Press

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
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