CCH provides 2020 Census outreach, advocates for complete count of people experiencing homelessness

Updated October 3

Have you filled out your census form yet? If not, you have until October 31 to make sure you are counted! Responding early is encouraged to avoid a follow-up visit from a U.S. Census worker.

Every person living in the country should be counted, no matter their Census 2020: People experiencing homelessness count too!housing status. 

Yet people experiencing homelessness are often undercounted, depriving many of fair political representation and access to vital resources.

Over the past year, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless provided extensive outreach to help ensure Illinoisans living in shelters, on the street, and doubled-up are represented in the 2020 Census. CCH is one of 42 organizations across the state partnering with Forefront’s IL Count Me In 2020 initiative, which aims to support a fair and accurate count among historically undercounted communities

“Past undercounting of people who are homeless is one of the reasons we have such a shortage of services for our community,” said Gloria Davis, CCH’s Census 2020 project manager. “We are hoping to change that.” 

CCH organizers provided census education during outreach at shelters, drop-in centers, schools, and community events, reaching 881 people impacted by homelessness and training 786 service providers. Our Law Project staff educated 1,070 Chicago Public Schools staffers and homeless liaisons on the census during CPS back-to-school trainings. Project lead Gloria Davis trained 318 service providers, grassroots leaders, and CCH staffers on the census at 13 sessions. 

Together, we distributed 10,315 pieces of CCH-written and designed outreach materials, including fact sheets, palm cards, and posters. These materials are tailored for people experiencing homelessness and reflect changes to census operations due to COVID-19.

“A lot of people knew about the census, but they didn’t know how important it was,” said Community Organizer Alyssa Rodriguez. “They have concerns about public benefits, quality of schools, health care, and affordable housing, and once it was made clear that the census affects funding for those things, they were energized to talk about it and fill it out.”

CCH’s census outreach shifted to virtual platforms in mid-March due to the pandemic. This included Zoom meetings and phone calls with grassroots leaders, regular social media posts, and emailed updates to CCH’s provider partners outlining modifications to census operations for people experiencing homelessness. 

CCH staffers also connected service providers at Chicago area shelters and housing programs to local U.S. Census Bureau officials to help coordinate the count of their residents and clients, which has been delayed amid public health concerns. This count will now take place from September 22 – 24. 

Inspired by CCH organizers, grassroots leader Elizabeth Maldonado is helping educate her networks about the census. “I posted on Facebook and talked to people about why it’s important for them and their family to be counted,” said Elizabeth. “The federal government has all this money that needs to be given out. I’m actually gonna start talking to the people at the shelter I’m staying at so that they can be counted.”

Do you still need to get counted? Here’s how.

Are you living in a house or apartment or staying doubled-up at the home of a friend or relative?

  • Every household was sent multiple mailings from the U.S. Census Bureau with instructions on how to participate.
  • You can complete the census online, over the phone, or by mail.
  • Visit or call 844-330-2020 to participate. (Para español haga clic aquí o llame al 844-468-2020). Language support is available in 60 languages.
  • Every person living in the house should be counted, including family and friends who are residing temporarily or couch surfing.
  • If you are living doubled-up and were not included on your household’s form, you can still be counted! Anyone may self-respond online or over the phone. A census ID number is not needed.

Are you living in a shelter?

  • Counting people at service-based locations (shelters, soup kitchens) will take place between September 22 and 24.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau is connecting with providers and stakeholders to determine the best way to safely and accurately conduct the count.
  • Talk to shelter staff to confirm when and how their location will be counted.

Are you living on the street or in an encampment?

  • The count of non-sheltered outdoor locations, such as tent encampments and underpasses, will take place between September 23 and 24.
  • If you are non-sheltered, a census worker might find you on September 23, but they might not. If you receive services in the community, such as a soup kitchen, you can talk to staff there to make sure you are included in their count. You can also self-respond online or over the phone.

People experiencing homelessness that have access to a phone or computer are encouraged to self-respond.

  • People that are homeless do not have to wait for the service-based enumeration process to be counted. The U.S. Census Bureau will remove duplicates if a person both self-responds and is counted at a shelter or on the street.

All people experiencing homelessness can complete a census form online or over the phone. This guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to respond online if you are homeless.

Don’t have access to a phone or computer? Most Chicago Public Library locations have reopened. Visit your local library and ask a staffer for help.


Contact Gloria Davis, CCH Census 2020 Project Manager, at or (312) 641-4140.