Councilman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) introduced an amendment in July to the Commerce, Justice, and State Appropriations bill to require the Census Bureau to release data collected on the homeless populations in the 2000 Census.
“The 2000 Census was a tremendous undertaking. “Congressman Kucinich said, “ I am concerned that even though the Census Bureau worked with local governments to ensure that people in shelters, at food banks and those living on the streets were counted, the Bureau has opted not to separate those county. That would make it more difficult for communities to serve the need of those who are homeless and defeat the purpose of the Census altogether.”
Congressman Kucinich introduced the amendment with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-14) which requires the Census Bureau to track data similar to what was released in 1990 on the homeless population, and top classify the homeless into categories which accurately reflect their living situations. Presently, the homeless population will be included with people living in other non-institutional group quarters such as college dormitories and group homes. The amendment was voted on this afternoon, and was defeated by a count of 217 to 209 along party lines.
These are the comments made by Rep. Kucinich on the floor of the House in support of this amendment to release the figures on homelessness in America by the U.S. Census.
“During the 2000 Census, local government and the homeless advocacy groups across the country, in a unique partnership with the Census Bureau invested resources in counting Americans sleeping in shelters, eating at soup kitchens and living on the streets. The Census Bureau has decided however, not to show the count of people living in shelters and people living on the streets separately. People counted on the street will be lumped in with people living in other non-institutional group quarters, such as college dormitories.
Local governments and community groups expected to learn how to better serve their homeless populations from this data collection. However the data currently provided by the Census Bureau is not all useful to local governments in identifying the services needed for their homeless citizens. It is encouraging to learn that the Census Bureau will be releasing a special report this fall showing some data collected through the service-based counts. Our amendment will provide adequate funding for the production of this report.
Only data provided to the local governments will enable communities to have accurate counts of people living in shelters and on the streets. The data is not intended to represent the official government count of the homeless. I consider the concerns of some national groups who would believe that these figures would reflect the official count of the homeless, but that’s a very difficult task.
I’ve been contacted by local homeless advocacy groups in my congressional district in Cleveland, Ohio, urging the release of this data. One group, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless assisted the Census bureau by holding a service fair to increase the number of homeless people counted. As the publisher of a street newspaper, this group absolutely supports the release of this data.
I urge my colleagues to support this amendment to provide your local governments with access to information collected on people living in shelters and on the street. Homelessness is a serious problem in this country. All of us know that it has many manifestations – people living on the street, in cardboard boxes, under bridges, or those assigned to homeless shelters. For all the work that the Census Bureau did in it’s last count, it’s important and essential that is Congress and the people of the United States have the exact data that was gathered by the Census Bureau. There ought to be freedom of information for the public, to withhold that information or to say it might be misinterpreted is really to miss an opportunity to get a broader assessment of homelessness in this country.
Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #49 August-September -2001