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2020 Census: Conducting and Motivating the Count: Counting People at Service-Based Locations

Service-Based Enumeration provided an opportunity for people without conventional housing and people who may be experiencing homelessness to be counted in the census.

Through this process, people who were not included in counts of traditional household-type living arrangements or group quarters were enumerated where they stayed or received services or at predetermined outdoor locations.

Where Is Service-Based Enumeration Conducted?

In Service-Based Enumeration, the Census Bureau counts people who receive services at the following types of locations:

  • Emergency and transitional shelters (with sleeping facilities) where people who may be experiencing homelessness stay overnight. These include shelters that operate on a first-come, first-served basis, where people must leave in the morning and have no guaranteed bed for the next night; shelters where people know that they have a bed for a specified period of time, even if they leave the building every day; and shelters that provide temporary refuge during extreme weather.
  • Soup kitchens that provide meals, distributed in food service lines or bag or box lunches, primarily to people who may be experiencing homelessness.
  • Regularly scheduled mobile food van stops that provide meals at regularly scheduled stops and that primarily serve people who may be experiencing homelessness.
  • Pre-identified non-sheltered outdoor locations where people experiencing homelessness live without paying.

How Does Service-Based Enumeration Work?

Beginning in February 2020, the Census Bureau contacted facility administrators to obtain important identifying information about their facilities to assist with the enumeration process. During this time, a date and time was set for the facility administrator to conduct the enumeration, and a preferred enumeration method was selected.

In Service-Based Enumeration, a Census Bureau representative conducted an in-person interview with each person who was served or stayed at a given service-based location on Census Day.

Shelters could also choose paper response data collection as their enumeration method. In this case, a Census Bureau representative met with the group quarters administrator to obtain a paper listing of census response data for each person who was served or stayed at the facility on Census Day.


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