Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Apr 16th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Counting On It

news1_CensusProject Homeless Connect encourages local homeless to fill out 2010 Census
Jared is 20 years old, and like most homeless people interviewed for this article, he declined to give his last name. He is pale and delicately built, with shy brown eyes, a mane of blonde dreadlocks festooned with tiny silver charms, and a cut on his forehead that’s almost healed.

On Tuesday, March 30, he was sitting quietly with some friends in the grass outside the Civic Auditorium in Downtown Santa Cruz, waiting for tickets for admission to Project Homeless Connect (PHC).  A daylong event co-sponsored by the United Way of Santa Cruz County and the U.S. Census Bureau, PHC brought together dozens of local charitable organizations to provide services for Santa Cruz’s homeless, while at the same time encouraging them to fill out the 2010 Census. Participants were given access to free services including medical, dental and eye care, employment advice, legal services, identification cards, haircuts, drug and alcohol counseling, needle exchange, meals, hygiene kits, housing help, and veterinary care.  

If you have checked your mail in the last month, you are aware that census season in the United States is well underway. The federal census is conducted every 10 years, and each time national and state agencies struggle to enumerate sectors of society that can be, for various reasons, difficult to count. As of April 1, the national mail-in participation rate for the 2010 census was 52 percent, down from 72 percent for the 2000 census. Santa Cruz is no different when it comes to low rates. According to data released by Rep. Sam Farr’s (D-Calif.) office, Santa Cruz County’s participation rate for the 2010 census is 50 percent, 2 percent lower than the current national average. Participation in the City of Santa Cruz is 48 percent.

“We have several hard-to-reach populations in our county,” says Santa Cruz Mayor Cynthia Mathews. “Undocumented workers, college-age students, and the homeless. They are chronically underreported.”

news1_Census2The reasons for these groups going undercounted are, surprisingly, quite similar, says Jan McStay, the assistant regional census manager for the Seattle Regional Census Center. “These are all populations who are mobile and don’t live in traditional housing units,” she says, “whether that’s a dorm, a car, outdoors, or in a shelter.”


GETTING COUNTING Colin Clyde, who was homeless for seven years, hopes that events like PHC continue to help the homeless even in non-census years.

But both Mathews and McStay agree that an accurate census count is crucial. “The reason it’s so important is that it affects our ability to get our fair share of representation in congress and electoral districts,” Mathews says. “Those are apportioned on basis of population. It also ensures that we get our fair share of federal and state dollars that are allocated on basis of population. There are countless funds that are allocated on that basis, like money for public transit, education, affordable housing, libraries, and parks.”

But homeless and undocumented people are often squeamish about filling out census forms, fearful that the government will misuse their information. Jared, who says he’s been homeless on and off ever since he left his parents’ home at age 16, declined to fill out the census while at PHC, citing his own privacy and safety concerns. “It’s super sketchy to me,” he says. “I don’t really trust anything having to do with any government organization. They say our information is secure, but I don’t believe them. I also don’t think figuring out national demographics is all that important unless you’re trying to figure out how many prison cells to build.”

McStay feels that the key to combating misinformation about the use of census data is more education and public outreach. “We need to educate people about safeguards,” she says. “Even the president doesn’t have access to individual census information. It cannot be accessed by anyone until 72 years after the census takes place. Census workers take a lifetime oath. They face stiff penalties for divulging information, up to five years in prison and fines as high as $250,000. There are severe repercussions. We couldn’t get the information that we do if it wasn’t completely secure.”

Santa Cruz City Council Member Don Lane, who has been active on the committee that helped put together PHC, says some wariness was anticipated in planning the event. He says entrance wasn’t contingent on census participation. “It wasn’t mandatory,” he says. “If someone declined to be counted in the census, then they were allowed to do that.” For those people who did choose to fill out the seven-question, homeless-specific version of the questionnaire, volunteers took down their responses; if they didn’t want to participate, their presence was counted, but no personal information was recorded.

Lane notes that a more thorough homeless census is conducted in odd-numbered years as part of the requirements to receive federal funding for homeless services. The 2009 Santa Cruz County Homeless Census and Survey counted 2,265 people on the morning of Jan. 22, 2009. From that number, using a formula developed by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), they estimate the number of homeless people in Santa Cruz County at any given time to be closer to 4,600, or about 2 percent of the total population. But such counts are usually far from accurate. “That would be the base number,” says Lane. “It could only really be higher than that. The reality is that there are probably a lot of people they didn’t find. That’s why going out to count people is so difficult.” By offering services and asking the homeless to come to them, he hopes a more accurate count might be possible this year, though it’s still too early to know.

Colin Clyde, 32, became homeless following the death of his girlfriend. “I was traumatized,” he says. “Just so deep in the throes of grief I couldn’t hang on to a job.” He lived on the streets of Seattle and Santa Cruz for seven years, before receiving housing through the federally-sponsored MATCH (Meaningful Alternatives to Chronic Homelessness) program six months ago. He came to PHC to get new glasses, an I.D. card, and other medical care services he’s usually not able to afford.

Though he filled out the census, he says he understands why other homeless youth like Jared are reluctant to give their information. “They’re paranoid,” he says, but for understandable reasons. “A lot of people who live on the streets, their only interactions with government workers are negative, whether it’s with cops or with benefits agencies that are heavily bureaucratized.”

Clyde hopes comprehensive programs like PHC will be ongoing, even in non-census years. “I wish the City Council would put more resources into programs like this, instead of spending their time suing my friends and treating the police like a social service agency,” he says. He’s referring to local homeless couple Miguel DeLeon and Anna Richardson, who have received dozens of citations over the last two years for illegal camping and creating a public nuisance. “If you give someone a ticket for camping, they’re not going to pay it, because they just can’t,” he continues. “Homeless people have to live somewhere.”

Kymberly Lacrosse, a community organizer with the United Way and one of the head administrators for the PHC, says she is just glad that over 1,000 people were able to overcome their qualms about the census process and come to receive assistance. “It’s really been such a community effort,” she says, noting that the city donated the use of the Civic, the Santa Cruz Metro donated over 400 bus passes, and the Santa Cruz Bible Church cooked enough food for 1500 meals—enough to feed attendees and the nearly 500 volunteers.

“Every person has a different story and every person has different needs,” Lacrosse says. “When we bring all of these community groups together, hopefully we can give these people some tools to get ahead in their lives.” 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.