Census Outreach

November 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The census questionnaires are not yet in the mail ... but the "behind-the-scenes" efforts to count every person in the country are well underway.In the Valley, census workers are already strategizing on how to reach even the most hard to count communities.

At a meeting in Southeast Fresno ... John Flores, together with census specialists from Ventura to Bakersfield to Fresno County are coming up with a game plan.

Flores's job is to coordinate the outreach effort for Central California-- 13 counties, 85 cities.

"What you see in the red here those are the hard to count areas ... that means we had a very poor response 10 years ago."

Flores says those hard-to-count communities include the homeless and non-English speakers, but are made up mostly of three key groups.

Flores said, "The farm worker community, the black community that live in certain areas that are just not responsive to these type of things and the Asian community that have a lot of elders that need to fill out those questionnaires."

The bad economy may play a significant role in the response to next years census. There's less money for outreach ... more families without stable homes ... and people for whom the census is simply, not a top priority.

"That last thing they are thinking about is filling out a questionnaire-- they are looking for a job, but the schools their kids attend, the roads that need to be repaired its all based on the money that they will get for that community.

Sallie Ayala-Perez, Regional Coordinator for the "Hagase Contar" campaign says anti-immigrant sentiment, has made many in the Latino community fearful to participate.

"We really want to make sure that they understand that the information that they will give out is protected by the constitution and it will not be shared with anyone," said Ayala-Perez.

Both Flores and Perez are working on bringing community, business, and church leaders on board. Perez hopes an aggressive campaign will help avoid a repeat of the 2000 census, when an estimated 3% of the Latino population was undercounted.

Ayala-Perez said, "We'll train the leaders within our community to feel more comfortable, to understand the process of the 2010 census-- to understand the importance of getting everyone to participate, especially our Latino community."

Several thousand census workers still need to be hired in the Central Valley. They encourage people in some of the smaller rural communities to apply.

To find the nearest testing site in your area, call the US Census Bureau at 1-866-861-2010.


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