Census workers make progress in counting Hawaii’s homeless population

Census workers make progress in counting Hawaii’s homeless population

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Hawaii is making progress accurately counting its population.

Data show the state is 99.6% counted, which puts Hawaii in the top three states when it comes to finishing the census count, but there are still people who need to be counted.

A nationwide operation started on Tuesday to accurately count people experiencing homelessness. Hawaii census workers were out Thursday morning to conduct that important work.

These are specially-trained census takers who work to collect data at shelters, soup kitchens and mobile food van stops as well those who live outdoors, in transit stations, and at other locations where people are known to sleep in an operation called Targeted Non-Sheltered Outdoor Locations.

That task doesn’t come without its own unique challenges, and depending on the time and location where that data is being collected, it can be dangerous work for the census takers.

“They go through some specialized training when it comes to counting people experiencing homelessness," said Donald Bendz, a spokesperson for the U.S. Census Bureau. "There is a special video that they watch, that we have available online for a sensitivity training regarding this very delicate operation. We also let them know that if they run into any kind of situation where they don’t feel safe, that they need to stop.”

There are instances when the census taker encounter someone who is either unwilling or unable to provide them with accurate information. Bendz says that the agency has a plan for dealing with those situations.

“When a census taker comes to a respondent, we have to put what that respondent says, what their answers are on their survey," added Bendz. "If a respondent does not answer, then we mark that person as a person and count them in the general population count, but the Census Bureau will not fill out the survey based on what they see.”

These statistics are crucial to fund the programs that people experiencing homelessness desperately need. It will also inform how state, local and federal lawmakers will allocate billions of dollars in federal funds for local services such as shelters and soup kitchens, and other programs.

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