U.S. Census modifies procedures, deadlines for counting people experiencing homelessness

Updated August 11

To ensure the health and safety of the public, the U.S. Census Bureau is modifying some of its census operations in the wake of COVID-19.

Here’s what you need to know.

The deadline to respond to the census has been extended from July 31 to September 30. But households are still strongly encouraged to respond early to minimize the need for follow up visits from a census official.

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


  • Every household has been 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 my2020census.gov 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 for any reason, 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?

(New dates)

  • Counting people at service-based locations (shelters, soup kitchens) has been delayed. The count will now take place between September 22 and 24.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau is connecting directly with providers and stakeholders to determine the best way to safely and accurately conduct the count amid public health concerns.

Are you living on the street or in an encampment?

(New dates)

  • The count at non-sheltered outdoor locations, such as tent encampments and underpasses, has been delayed.
  • The count will happen between September 23 and 24.

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 has a process to eliminate duplicates if someone self-responds and is later counted at a shelter or on the street.

All people experiencing homelessness can complete a census form online or over the phone. This linked 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 assistance.

CCH’s outreach activities are on pause, but you still can help us ensure all Illinoisans are counted in the 2020 Census, no matter their housing status:

  • Share this blog post on social media.
  • Email our revised 2020 Census fact sheet, palm card, and poster to your networks. These documents, designed by CCH, were updated to reflect the U.S. Census Bureau’s modified operations.
  • Encourage your friends and family to complete the census online, over the phone, or by mail. Be sure to fill out your own form, too!
  • Check out the U.S. Census Bureau’s official 2020 Census page for more information.

Questions about the census counting those who are homeless?

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

– Erin Sindewald, Development Manager