Making sure Vt.'s homeless count in census - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Making sure Vt.'s homeless count in census

Burlington, Vermont - April 1, 2010

Thursday was a picture perfect day in Burlington -- the day the U.S. Census uses to take its snapshot of the country's population.

"April 1st is the date we target," said Ellen Biddle, a recruiter for the U.S. Census office in Vermont. "Where do you live as of April 1st, where do you live the largest portion of your time?"

The census is taken every ten years. This year, it's just ten questions. Officials call it a small survey with a big impact.

"We have $400 billion of federal funding at stake every year that is apportioned based largely on census-collected data," Biddle said. "So it's important. In Vermont, we want Vermonters to fill out the form because we want our share of that funding."

Census forms have been sent to every mailing address in the country, but if you haven't gotten one, you will still be counted -- even if you have no mailing address. Rita Markley, director of the Committee on Temporary Shelter, said the census is making sure the homeless population is counted too.

"When you're used to being unseen and dismissed or people look away, to shift that mindset and tell them you do count," she said.

Census workers worked with staff at area homeless shelters to make sure people would be comfortable answering their questions. They passed out safety kits to develop a rapport with the people they'd be surveying -- people who Markley says might not otherwise trust government officials. Tuesday night, census workers visited camps and other locations to make sure people there were counted too.

"They did street outreach, places where people congregate, to make sure there was a count of people who aren't in shelter, too," Markley said.

The census is still hiring people here in Vermont to help count the population. Census takers start at $13.50 per hour. For information, contact the U.S. Census Vermont office on Industrial Avenue in Williston at 802-264-0860. For other census questions, call 866-872-6868.

Kate Duffy - WCAX News

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