WASHINGTON — The U.S. Census Bureau will begin the special operations to count people experiencing homelessness in communities across the country on Sept. 22. Specially trained census takers will count people Sept. 22-24 at shelters, soup kitchens and mobile food van stops in an operation called Service-Based Enumeration (SBE). Census takers will count people who live outdoors, in transit stations, and at other locations where people are known to sleep in an operation called Targeted Non-Sheltered Outdoor Locations (TNSOL).
“The Census Bureau is committed to counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place,” said Dr. Steven Dillingham, director of the Census Bureau. “To reach everyone living in the United States, our census takers are conducting special operations to count people experiencing homelessness to ensure we have a complete and accurate 2020 count.”
Counting people experiencing homelessness is part of the Group Quarters (GQ) operation, a special process to count people in unique living situations. The GQ operation also counts people living in nursing homes, prisons, missions and dormitories. A complete and accurate 2020 Census can ultimately help organizations provide better services, food distribution capability, and improved shelter options to those in need.
“We are committed to taking every step necessary to make sure we count everyone,” said Dillingham. “Even if you have someone staying with you who doesn’t have another place to live, be sure to include them when you respond.”
In preparation for counting people experiencing homelessness, the Census Bureau is coordinating with local service providers and has consulted with advocacy groups and other stakeholders throughout the country to adjust this work in response to COVID-19. The Census Bureau is also working with service provider administrators to identify locations where people experiencing homelessness are living to ensure a complete count of this population.
Hotels that are being used as COVID-19 shelters generally fall under the Enumeration at Transitory Locations operation and are not a part of SBE. However, if 100% of the hotel is housing people experiencing homelessness, then it is enumerated during SBE.
To count people outdoors in places like tent encampments, teams of census takers wearing reflective vests and carrying smartphones, flashlights and paper questionnaires will visit those locations; often at night. Every effort will be made to collect all the information requested on the census form. If that isn’t possible, census takers will conduct a population count. Census takers will follow the latest local public health guidance regarding the use of personal protective equipment and social distancing.
Census statistics are crucial to programs and service providers that support people experiencing homelessness and inform how state, local and federal lawmakers will allocate billions of dollars in federal funds for local services such as shelters and soup kitchens, and programs like the Emergency Shelter Grants Program and the Special Milk Program for children. Local nonprofit organizations also rely on census statistics to improve where and how they provide critical services.
The Census Bureau is committed to protecting the privacy of respondents, employees and the security of the data it collects. Therefore, the media or any members of the public are not authorized to follow census takers as they conduct official Census Bureau business. The Census Bureau has provided simulated operational photos and b-roll for media use.
For more information about the 2020 Census and counting people experiencing homelessness, visit 2020census.gov.