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Combined Effort for Census 2020 Complete Count

More than a year ago, White Pony Express applied for and received a grant from a group of foundations that are committed to ensuring a fair and accurate Census 2020 count, particularly among hard-to-count populations. WPE’s extensive network of partner organizations and dedicated pool of active volunteers made for an effective and attractive collaboration.

Samuel Houston joined WPE as the Census Engagement Coordinator in January 2020 to lead the project - an ideal fit as Sam has worked on behalf of and counseled underserved communities and has key connections to Contra Costa County’s Census 2020 administrators. Working with our partners, WPE’s outreach plan was to begin by educating and building trust among those we were already serving. Overcoming numerous barriers to an accurate count, including heightened fear and distrust in the current political climate, was no small undertaking.

The next phase was to set up Questionnaire Assistance Centers or Kiosks (QAC or QAK), where individuals could sit down and complete the survey at WPE’s partner organizations including churches, shelters, low-income senior housing centers, and the eleven school pantries we were serving weekly. Volunteers were recruited and trained, technology lined up, events scheduled… and then COVID-19 hit.

The shelter-in-place order, social distance requirement, school closures, and restrictions on services our partner organizations were allowed to offer devastated outreach plans. And fear of contracting the virus added another barrier to achieving a complete count.

Back to the drawing board, but we were undaunted! As WPE adapted to meet the increased need for food, Sam worked with our partners to find alternative ways to educate and reach communities, partnering with Palabra de Dios, Loaves and Fishes, St. Vincent DePaul, and Refuge Church, walking the lines of cars at food distribution events.

On August 6, in partnership with the County, the City of Concord, and several community organizations, White Pony Express led a Census Caravan through neighborhoods and shopping centers in the Monument Corridor. Soon after, Sam set up a QAK event at Monument Crisis Center where he was finally able to sign people up onsite. “We had a line!” he reported with a grin.

Please remember that data collected in the census will inform the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds to states and communities each year for the next 10 years for things like health care, food assistance, and infrastructure. It is important that we all respond to shape the future of our communities. Learn more and respond to the census today at 2020CENSUS.GOV.

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