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In 2020 Census, Youths Without Stable Housing Could be Missed in Pandemic

An estimated 4,079 Kentuckians experience homelessness on any given day, according to federal data from 2019. (Adobe Stock)
An estimated 4,079 Kentuckians experience homelessness on any given day, according to federal data from 2019. (Adobe Stock)
April 1, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Homeless families and transient youths typically are undercounted in the census, and the COVID-19 pandemic could make efforts to include them even more challenging.

The Kentucky Department of Education estimates that each year, more than 24,000 children are either homeless or don't have a stable place to live. However, Adrienne Bush, executive director of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky, said counting transient kids is critical to ensuring the Commonwealth has the federal dollars it needs to address housing insecurity, a concern that's likely to increase with this public health crisis.

"We have gotten inquires from people who were laid off, people who are worried about making their April rent," she said. "We appreciate the eviction moratorium set in place by Gov. (Andy) Beshear, but people are still very worried, because their rent is still due."

Bush said funding for the state's emergency shelters and housing-assistance programs largely is based on census data. The Census Bureau has said it will delay efforts to count homeless and transitory populations until May.

Tyler Hunter, vice president of Voices of the Commonwealth, an advocacy group made up of current and former foster-care youth, said many college students that have aged out of the foster-care system rely on student dorms for housing much of the year.

"So, with the whole clearing of campuses and shutting everything down, that kind of displaces them," he said. "Some may end up just leaving the program and becoming homeless; some may go to shelters."

Hunter said he's encouraging young people to complete the census online, noting that census forms should be filled out based on where a person lives most of the time or, if they have no usual address, where they're living on April 1 -- even if that means they're temporarily crashing at a friend's or neighbor's address. More information is online at my2020census.gov.

Kentucky Department of Education statistics are online at education.ky.gov, and census operational changes are at 2020census.gov.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY