Striving to change the historic Black undercount in the census

Posted on Feb 24, 2020

Since 2002, Fresno EOC Streets Saints has worked to restore Fresno to a safe and healthy community by empowering and supporting leadership opportunities for youth. With their work of improving and rebuilding community, Street Saints took on the task of reaching hard-to-count Black communities with grassroots outreach.

“This is a pivotal moment for our city, state, and communities,” Veronica Wilson, Administrative & Development Coordinator said. “We have been charged to educate and make our people aware of how critical it is to be counted because our Black communities have been under-represented far too long.”

Street Saints is excited to start canvassing for a second phase of door knocking this spring. As a partner of the California Black Census and Redistricting Hub, Street Saints and 29 organizations throughout California are encouraging households to fill out their census questionnaire.

In their first phase of canvassing, Street Saints reached out to nearly 500 households to tell them about the importance of the 2020 Census. Staff focused on census tracts with large numbers of Black families to combat the previous undercounts minority populations faced in other census counts.

“To me, it’s an honor to be a part of something that will literally be life changing,” Michael Lollis, Canvasser. “I take pride in knowing that the part I play in educating our Black community will make a difference in the lives of so many along with myself as well.”

After the 2010 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated more than 800,000 African Americans were undercounted nationwide, with undercounts in young children and African-American men even more prevalent.

When undercounts happen they put minority populations at a disadvantage for years, considering the numbers collected from the census help determine federal funding, number of congressional seats, and redistricting of all levels of government.

In order to prevent a repeat of 2010, Street Saints is also utilizing other outreach methods to get out the message of the census. These activities include workshops, community chats, community food distributions and networking with local Black churches. More recently the Street Saints team attended Martin Luther King Jr. events in Fresno, encouraging attendees to fill out their questionnaire.

If households are not counted this means they will not be accurately represented in government for the next 10 years nor is the proper amount of funding given to necessary programs such as Head Start, LIHEAP or WIC. These programs provide low-income residents with supportive services to lead healthy and successful families. Street Saints and other Fresno EOC programs want to ensure all our communities are counted.

Interested in Fresno EOC’s role in the census? Learn more