Question: Do any CoCs have specific strategies and guidance you can share for counting our unsheltered population in the 2020 Census? We were informed that Census staff will be assisting at specific service locations; however, we are concerned about counting those who are located in other areas, such as encampments, parks or vehicles.

By Jennifer Harkey
Oxnard, San Buenaventura/Ventura County CoC


  1. TARA CARRUTH on June 12, 2019 at 8:07 am

    We reached out to William Snow from the SNAPs Office with HUD and here is his response to share with your communities.

    I see the email below and saw the question posted on the SoCal CoC site about the 2020 Census. We have been working with the Census recently and also asked for some clarification. Here is what I know.

    1. HUD does not plan on giving exceptions to the PIT count to participate in the Census instead. A big reason is that the timing is just too different. To have several counts in April compared to January is very different dynamics (weather, volunteers, etc). We also have requirements to publish the data within reasonable timeframes and doing counts that late would prevent us from meeting our obligations to Congress. That being said, this is an off-year count so CoCs do not have to conduct an unsheltered PIT count.
    2. The method for counting the homeless is through what the Census is referring to as “Service-based enumeration.” This includes counting in:
    • Emergency shelters
    • Transitional housing
    • Soup kitchens
    • Regularly-scheduled mobile food vans
    • Targeted non-sheltered outdoor locations
    The Census will collect information through in-person interviews and paper listings (essentially a list with a few data elements that the Census worker will collect from the service provider)
    For more information on this data collection go to:
    3. It appears that the Census does not plan on attempting to count every unsheltered homeless person. They said they plan on visiting and surveying in key locations.
    4. Because people experiencing homelessness are counted in a variety of living situations, the Census does not plan on publishing a count of the homeless population, nor will it publish a count of people experiencing homelessness who use homeless services at any geographic level.
    5. HUD asked that the Census work directly with CoCs to determine the universe of homeless service providers and how to engage the various service-based enumeration locations. HUD has also asked if the Census can provide clarification about the expected level of engagement from CoCs and providers, whether there is an opportunity for being paid for assisting, and other questions about what this means.
    6. HUD is asking CoCs to work with Census and is committed to provide more information as we get closer to the count.

    Feel free to share this information with others.


    William Snow

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