Counting People Experiencing Homelessness in the 2020 Census

August 6, 2020

Between September 22-24, the U.S. Census Bureau will send specially trained census takers to count people experiencing homelessness at shelters, soup kitchens, regularly scheduled mobile food vans, and previously identified locations where people are known to sleep outdoors as part of an operation known as service-based enumeration . People experiencing homelessness will be counted where they are staying when census takers visit between September 22-24.

Continuums of Care are encouraged to check the 2020 Census website frequently for updates and to contact their Regional Census Center (RCC) with questions or to be connected with your area census office. Your USICH regional coordinator can also help facilitate connections to your local Census partners.

Finding People Where They Are:

The September count will focus on service-based locations where people experiencing homelessness receive services, and on pre-identified outdoor locations, including:

  • Emergency and transitional shelters with sleeping facilities for people experiencing   homelessness;
  • Missions, hotels, and motels used to shelter people experiencing homelessness, and shelters for children who have run away, are neglected, or experiencing homelessness;
  • Soup kitchens that offer meals to people experiencing homelessness;
  • Regularly scheduled mobile food van stops;
  • All-night businesses (such as transit stations and 24-hour laundromats); and
  • Outdoor locations, including tent encampments, clusters of tarp-covered structures, and parks and highway underpasses where people experiencing homelessness stay.

People who are temporarily displaced but will be able to quickly return home (for example, people staying in natural disaster shelters), will be counted at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time. If they cannot determine a place where they live most of the time, they will be counted where they are staying on Census Day.

People who are staying in a doubled-up situation should be counted by the person completing the 2020 census form for the household in which they are staying. The form includes a “probe question” to prompt the person completing the form to include everyone.


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