AUSTIN (KXAN) — This week, U.S. Census Bureau enumerators will work to make sure Travis County and the surrounding area’s homeless population is counted.
Enumerators will visit people experiencing homelessness living along Interstate 35, U.S. Highway 290 and 183. Since October, Integral Care has been laying the groundwork for Census officials by working to provide support, mapping and information. The health authority has also been working to get the word out within the homeless community.
Integral Care is just one of the many local groups, along with the City of Austin, working to ensure every person experiencing homelessness is counted. Austin’s Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, or ECHO, is also helping, providing mapping to guide census officials.
In January, ECHO conducted its annual Point-In-Time count. At that time, 2,506 people were counted as experiencing homelessness.
An 11 percent increase from last year with a 45% spike in unsheltered homelessness. While ECHO officials said the jump in numbers was more than likely due to a more accurate count thanks to volunteers and better technology. ECHO officials added it is a hard-to-reach population, and counting those experiencing homelessness is crucial.
“The great risk is that we lose federal funding for things like shelters and services and housing programs and things like that, that are very critical to helping serve this population and helping keep people off the streets,” said Sarah Duzinski, ECHO’s vice president of quality assurance.
“For us to ensure that we are able to move people off the streets and into housing we need those federal dollars and that support of the federal government,” added Ellen Richards, Integral Care’s chief strategist.
Census officials cannot use the Point-In-Count numbers because census enumerators must be the ones to conduct the count. Enumerators will also visit homeless shelters and food bank lines to make sure they get as many people counted as possible.