Point Reyes Light article by: Braden Cartwright
The United States Census Bureau is ending its counting efforts a month sooner than previously announced, and West Marin’s response rates are still far below expectations. With seven weeks until the count ends, fewer than four of 10 households in coastal Marin have completed the survey. The San Geronimo Valley is doing a little better, with more than half of households responding, but the area is still under the national response rate of 63 percent.
On Tuesday, census takers began visiting households that have not yet responded, and local community organizations are continuing their outreach. “We know for a fact that there’s a lot more people living out here than are counted in the census,” said Heather Oakley, who is heading outreach for West Marin Community Services. “And it’s becoming really clear that the census builds in inequities in counties.”
Over-the-hill residents who get mail directly to their homes have received flyers from the census bureau, but in West Marin, where mail is delivered to post office boxes, the only promotion has come from nonprofits like the Canal Alliance. West Marin usually relies on senior volunteers, but older people have been sidelined during the pandemic. Poor internet also makes it harder for some people to respond.
Ms. Oakley said that her experience leading the census outreach has shown that the count is not just a dry governmental process; it matters. She teared up when she helped a homeless woman fill out the form, because of the bravery it took to list her address as a street corner she often sleeps at. “The feeling of being counted is really profound,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or why you are here, it’s just, ‘Are you here?’” To complete the census, visit my2020census.gov.
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