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Census Homeless Count Begins In LA This Week

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(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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People living outside and in homeless shelters in L.A. this week will be counted in the 2020 Census.

The work is organized by the federal government through the U.S. Census Bureau. It's separate from the annual point-in-time-count conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. But according to that local count, at least an estimated 66,000 unhoused people will need to be accounted for.

Over the past few weeks, census takers have already reached out to people living in RVs, boats and campgrounds.

This week marks the beginning of service-based enumeration, which tallies people staying in shelters. It also includes those staying in hotels through Project Roomkey, a program meant to protect homeless people from COVID-19.

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Shelter service providers have several options to provide data to the federal governemnt. They can send infomation on residents directly to the Census Bureau, provide blank questionnaires to residents, or allow census takers to collect responses through in-person interviews.

On Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, census workers will attempt to collect responses from people living outside.

Census Bureau officials won't say which service providers or nonprofits they’re working with to coordinate this count.

The 2020 Census is set to end Sept. 30 for now, after the Trump administration moved the deadline up from Oct. 31. The city of Los Angeles and other plaintiffs have sued to extend the decennial count, arguing that the city's most vulnerable populations could go undercounted. A federal judge recently ordered that the census could not wind down before this week, and could order that the deadline be extended.

There's much at stake for Southern California in the census: The data collected helps determine billions of dollars in federal funding for programs like Medi-Cal, for public education, even disaster planning. It also helps determine political represention in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. An undercount could lead to cuts in critical resources in Los Angeles County, home to the largest hard-to-count population in the nation. So far, fewer than two thirds of L.A. County households have self-responded to the census online, by phone or by mail.

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Census forms can be filled out online on the 2020 Census website.

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