Chicago vendors help with census outreach among the homeless
CHICAGO (AP) — A service organization is partnering with magazine street vendors in Chicago to help collect data on the city's homeless population after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the U.S. Census Bureau’s original timeline for the decennial count.
Vendors at StreetWise magazine have passed out branded items about the census to people since March, the Chicago Tribune reported. The vendors will be paid by the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, which is one of the organizations getting state money to communities that risk being undercounted.
Keith Hardiman, a 58-year-old vendor who currently pays $35 per day to live in a hotel, noted that he already has places in mind where he could stop to talk to people about the census that are along his route coming home from downtown.
“I see the lines where they are passing out food,” Hardiman said. “That would be a great place to stop and talk to people and let them (know) about what the census is all about.”
Before the coronavirus outbreak, the Census Bureau had expected to finish gathering data on the country’s population by July 31 but has since pushed the date back to Oct. 31.
The agency had planned to work with local service organizations to count the homeless during a three-day operation in Chicago. But it’s now unclear when that might occur.
Ellisa Johnson, the deputy director for the Chicago regional census bureau, said the office hired staffers but is in a “holding pattern” until the agency allows them to proceed.
“We are paying very close attention to any state regulations that all the governors have put in place,” Johnson said. “First and foremost, we are making sure that we are following the CDC guidelines.”
A. Allen, 52, who sold StreetWise for the past nine years, has also pivoted to census outreach. He said census information from previous decennial counts helped him discover that one of his relatives was the first black man to own a car in his Mississippi town.
“We don’t want to lose any more representation for the black community,” Allen said. “We need all the support that we can get, and this is one way.”