Census Count to be Kept Secret
|April 7, 2005||Posted by Staff under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Bush to Spread Ignorance, Not Knowledge
U.S. to keep count of homeless hidden
Below is a shocking news article from the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, Ohio.
by Joan Mazzolini and Dave Davis
The U.S. Census Bureau has decided to keep the number of homeless Americans a secret.
Census Bureau officials yesterday admitted that they will not separately list the number of people sleeping in shelters, living in cars, under bridges and on sidewalks as they did 10 years before.
The figures on these hidden Americans were to be released this month with the last wave of data from the so-called “short form,” the eight questions asked of nearly every American.
But that changed in March, two months after Bush took office. Rather than release information on homeless people with the rest of the data, the bureau’s executive staff decided to do a “special” report on people sleeping in shelters — but that will not come out for at least a year, according to Edison Gore, deputy chief of the Census Bureau’s decennial management division.
“We want to build some caveats around the [shelter] numbers,” Gore said. “The caveats would be that these numbers in no way represent a count of the homeless. We were concerned about the numbers being misused, basically.” Gore said politics did not play a role in the decision. [He also did not say why such caveats need a year's delay.]
Homeless advocates who helped with the count said yesterday they were not informed of the Census Bureau’s decision to put the homeless in a catchall “other” group where they could not be identified separately.
“Who are they safeguarding?” asked Ron Reinhart, director of the Salvation Army’s PASS Program in Cleveland. “They don’t want people to know what a poor job they did.”
Census takers and advocates in Cleveland spent three days in March of last year counting people sleeping in shelters, eating at soup kitchens and living under bridges and sidewalks as part of the massive national head count meant to provide a snapshot of our nation every 10 years.
But even when Census officials release the figures for people living in shelters, they won’t release the number of people sleeping outside, even though the government spent time and tax dollars trying to count them.
“It all goes back to having been burned in 1990 [when the government was criticized for putting little effort into the count],” said Barbara Duffield, director of education for the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C. “The Census doesn’t want to have a homeless’ count.”
Counting the homeless is tricky, and homeless advocates said they were aware of the data’s shortcomings. Still, many said it was important to acknowledge that people are living on the streets and to provide a count that could be improved upon in 10 years.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Cleveland Democrat, yesterday called on the bureau to release the homeless figures because they are a “moral index in our society.”
At age 11, Kucinich lived in a Dodge with his mother, father and four younger siblings for four months. His dad was out of work; his mother was ill.
“We lived in our car around 32nd Street,” the congressman recalled. “In the evenings, we parked overlooking the [LTV] steel mill. I’d watch that big sleeve of fire in the sky as I’d go to sleep. It symbolized hope for me then.
“We need to know because we need to provide services for these people,” Kucinich said. “It’s also an indication of the strength of our community and of our economy.”
We pay tax dollars to collect this information, then it is concealed from us. Secrecy is anti-democracy. Shame on the Bush administration for playing political games. The Census count is supposed to be scientific, not manipulated for politicians.
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