U.S. Census teams up with advocates to count homeless

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - Every ten years, workers have trouble counting one part of the Tri-State's population: the homeless. Specifically, those who live outside on the streets. U.S. Census workers said each person not counted costs the city $2,263 in federal funds.

"We looked at the numbers in 2000," said Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. "When workers went out they determined there were two people outside. That kind of signaled to us that something went wrong 10 years ago and we want to do it right this time around."

This year, the U.S. Census is teaming up with local homeless advocates to make sure everyone is counted.

"This is also a special circumstance where we have sworn in special workers," said Donna Marsh, regional spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau. "We couldn't do this without the help of those who do this on a daily basis."

On Monday, 10 teams of Census, outreach and social workers dropped by homeless shelters to help folks there fill out the forms. On Tuesday, groups will head to soup kitchens, and starting Wednesday at two in the morning, outreach workers will head out to 85 homeless camps to talk to people living there and ask them the same 10 questions found on the US census form.

"Actually, contrary to what you would think when we go and wake people up in the middle of the night, they're generally very receptive," Spring said. "The reason is that our outreach workers have been out already for weeks in advance saying hey we're coming."

Workers won't check abandoned buildings though.

"In Cincinnati, there are far too many to go into," Spring said. "And second of all, they're dangerous because they're unstable. You could fall through the floor."

Instead, census workers and homeless advocates will work overtime this week to ensure hundreds of homeless people don't fall through the cracks.

"We need them counted so we can get the funds that can help them," Marsh said.

"If Congress is able to find out that people are doubled up and this is happening that means more dollars to prevent this, less nights in shelters, and less taxpayer dollars overall," Spring said.

Right now, the U.S. Census reports that 47-percent of people in Hamilton County have returned their forms; 51-percent in Butler County; and 55-percent in Warren County. The national average right now is 67-percent.

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