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Census 2020: Counting Colorado's Homeless Population

On any given day, more than 9,619 people experience homelessness in Colorado. (Needpix)
On any given day, more than 9,619 people experience homelessness in Colorado. (Needpix)
April 1, 2020

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. -- Today is Census Day. Most homes already have received an invitation by mail to participate in the 2020 census, but invitations are much harder to deliver to people without a home. During this year's once-a-decade tally, the Census Bureau is setting aside three consecutive days for counting people experiencing homelessness.

Brianne Snow, executive director of the Family and Intercultural Resource Center, said getting an accurate count is especially challenging in rural parts of Colorado.

"Historically, unhoused residents and transient populations have been undercounted in the census," she said. "An accurate count means more funding for housing, infrastructure, community support and health initiatives."

Many programs in Colorado depend on getting a complete and accurate count, including the Emergency Shelter Grants Program and the Special Milk Program for children. Census workers are devoting one day each to counting people in shelters, then at food banks and soup kitchens, and finally folks living outdoors. Checks are in place to ensure that people aren't counted more than once.

Snow's group is helping the bureau by sharing info on outdoor locations where unhoused people stay in Summit County, including public lands, remote roads and parking lots. She said many people experiencing homelessness in Summit County rely on post office boxes for mail service.

"Census will count people wherever they live on Census Day, April 1, or wherever they are staying that day if they do not have permanent residence," she said. "The census will not send a reminder or the census questionnaire to your P.O. box."

Census data is used to determine how billions of federal dollars support services such as shelters and soup kitchens, as well as housing assistance and nutrition programs. According to 2019 data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on any given day, more than 9,600 people experience homelessness in Colorado.

Information on the census is available online in Spanish and English.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO