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Two chairs outside of camp ground mobile home.

How the U.S. Census Counts People Living in Unconventional Places

People from every generation live in unconventional ways and locations. Some reside at horseracing stables or travel with circuses and carnivals. Others seek more affordable housing in RV parks. Or, others live on boats, docking at marinas most of the time or between sailing trips, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

If they have a more permanent home elsewhere, the Census Bureau considers the place they spend most of their time their address.

Black census logo with census red tagline

Historically, counting the people living in unconventional places in a census has been a challenge, but the Census Bureau is determined to include them in the 2020 Census. It has identified places where the transitory population may be on Census Day.

This population includes people who live in transitory or temporary locations and typically pay a fee to do so.  If they have a more permanent home elsewhere, the Census Bureau considers the place they spend most of their time their address.

For census purposes, enumeration of the transitory population does not include people who are experiencing homelessness and live in makeshift tents or RV encampments where they do not pay to stay.

This population is counted in a separate “group quarters” operation called Service-Based Enumeration. So if a hotel is only used to shelter people who are experiencing homelessness, it’ll then fall under the definition of “group quarters.”

The Census Bureau has a plan and strategies to count individuals at a variety of transitory locations. Although most people living in households will get a letter with instructions on how to complete the 2020 Census questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail, individuals living in transitory locations will be interviewed in person by a census taker.

From April 9 to May 4, the Census Bureau is deploying about 14,000 census takers to unconventional places such as campgrounds, RV parks, marinas, hotels, motels, racetracks, carnivals, circuses and other locations across the country to enumerate people who don’t have permanent addresses.

Using a paper questionnaire, they will ask respondents their name, age, date of birth, sex, race, who else lives them and whether there’s another place they stay or live most of the time.

With or Without a Mailbox, You Will Be Counted

It is important for everyone including those living in transitory locations to respond to the 2020 Census. Statistics on the U.S. population help state, local and federal officials decide how to spend billions of dollars annually in federal funds for critical public services, such as hospitals and clinics, emergency response, schools, roads and bridges.

No matter where you live, those public services are important to you, too.

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