Everyone Counts: Make Sure People Experiencing Homelessness Are Part of the 2020 U.S.Census

Everyone Counts: Make Sure People Experiencing Homelessness Are Part of the 2020 U.S.Census

Posted January 21, 2020; last updated May 7, 2020

April 1st is Census Day! Our voices matter, especially during a pandemic. Replying to the Census is safe and easy to do remotely and doesn’t require in-person interaction. Households should have received a mailing with a unique identifying ID code that they can input at If taking the census online isn’t an option, households can also reply over the phone and have access to 12 non-English languages. Households and individuals can also respond via mail in mid-April, as they will receive a paper form and an already stamped and addressed envelope in which to send the Census back. Participating in the Census is important and helps allocate billions of dollars in funding as well as crucial political representation at every level of the state.

How to respond to the Census:

The Census Bureau remains committed to getting a complete and accurate count, even as the situation changes rapidly. Many of the Coalition’s participants fall under the umbrella of Service-Based Enumeration (SBE), which is a three-day period during which the Census Bureau will directly interact with service providers in order to enumerate as many people as they can at those locations. This includes locations like shelters, food pantries, and mobile food vans. Depending on the size of these locations, census enumerators will either individually interview each participant or will gather a list of participants and their demographics from provider administration. Initially, SBE was slated to take place between March 30th and April 1st. However, the Census suspended those plans and reached out to service providers to learn more about what their operations status is looking like. As of April 13th, the Census has indefinitely suspended SBE. In the meantime, they are urging service providers and other Group Quarters locations to use the eResponse process if they are not already committed to doing so. The eResponse process allows providers to confidentially and electronically share records of their participants with the Census and eliminates the need for an in person visit.

Learn more about SBE:

The Census also plans to extend the period of time in which they will be enumerating Targeted Non-Sheltered Outdoor Locations (TNSOLs), which are outdoor areas where people are living such as encampments, underpasses, and sidewalks. The Census now plans to enumerate these locations from September 3rd - 28th. Enumerators at these locations will do a headcount of the people they see staying there and will not be conducting in-person interviews.

The Census is also extending the period of outreach they do for Non-Response Follow-Up until October 31st,  as their field operations are currently suspended until June 1st. The Census also plans to delay the start of their Mobile Questionnaire Assistance programs, which are non-permanent help centers that are designed to help people answer questions they have about the Census and assist them in being able to fill it out on their own. More information is to come in the following days but taking the Census remains safe, easy, and important.

Information on MQAs:

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our five trainings in cities across the state during the month of February to help ensure that all people experiencing homelessness in Massachusetts are counted as part of the 2020 United States Census.

Thank you to our training hosts in Boston, Hyannis, Lynn, Springfield, and Worcester.

These trainings brought together advocates, providers, community members, people with lived experience, Census Bureau staff, and local Complete Count Committee members to work on best practices and effective outreach and engagement strategies in order to assure a complete count of people experiencing homelessness for the 2020 Census. We talked about the importance of the Census, barriers to a complete count, and discussed questions and concerns.

For more information, please contact Marwa.