Ensuring that Homeless are Accurately Counted and that More than Ever, NJ Receives Necessary Federal Funding to End Homelessness

The Census Count, occurring every 10 years, helps to determine how federal funding is allocated across the country.

Persons experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity are included in the “hard to count” group identified by the Census with some of the lowest response rates.  
NJCounts 2020, the statewide point in time count of the homeless, helped to ensure that NJ residents experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness fully participate in the 2020 Census.  NJ Counts 2020 identified locations where unsheltered persons are staying, encouraged participation in the Census which is happening now, and tested survey methodologies with persons experiencing housing insecurity.
Even given the current coronavirus pandemic hitting New Jersey and the rest of the United States, the 2020 Census is underway.  In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Census Bureau adjusted 2020 Census operations in order to:
  • Protect the health and safety of Census Bureau employees and the American public,  
  • Implement guidance from federal, state, and local health authorities, and
  • Ensure a complete and accurate count of all communities.
This is obviously a very fluid and constantly changing situation as the pandemic continues to spread across our region and country.  But for now, adjustments to the 2020 Census schedule specifically related to counting individuals who are homeless include:
  • The Service Based Enumeration (SBE) will now take place April 29–May 1,
  • Enumeration of Transitory Locations will take place April 23 – May 18, and
  • Count of people experiencing homelessness outdoors will now take place on May 1.

This table summarizes more completely the adjustments to operations. Should there be any additional adjustments, the Census Bureau will publish the change in an updated document.

People experiencing homelessness have likely been undercounted in the Census for decades.  Ensuring that people experiencing homelessness are counted accurately in the 2020 Census is critical and there are ways that we can all help ensure that happens.
If the population of people experiencing homelessness is undercounted, we run the risk of negatively impacting how federal funding is state and localities. Many programs that fund efforts to end homelessness are funded based in whole or in part on census derived data.  Such programs include Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs, Medicaid, McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance, and Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
Below are additional details about two of the ways that individuals experiencing homelessness will be counted. 
  • Service-Based Enumeration (SBE) which is currently scheduled to take place April 29 – May 1, counts people experiencing homelessness at places where they receive services such as shelters, including youth shelters, soup kitchens, and homeless encampments. Census takers will use paper census forms and contact interviews on a day or night within the 3 day period.
  • Enumeration at Transitory Locations (ETL) will count people at places such as hotels, motels and campgrounds. The ETL count is currently scheduled to take place April 23 – May 18 at the transitory locations using paper census forms.
  • On May 1, it is currently scheduled that Census volunteers will do outreach to outdoor locations to ensure individuals experiencing homelessness are accounted for. 
Click here for more information about counting individuals experiencing homelessness in the 2020 Census.