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Census

The US Census is one of the oldest agencies responsible for producing data about the American people and economy. Every 10 years they staff up with the intention of counting every man, woman and child living in our borders. There are a lot of different roles but the meat of it comes from field enumerators that go door to door documenting which houses are vacant and interviewing folks that haven't submitted their survey.


My first foray into this was in 2000 when I was living in Warrensburg. This is before the widespread adoption of the internet so everything was still via paper. Being a rural area I covered a lot of ground and had more than one gun pulled on me for "being from the government". It was good money and paid double what I was making at McDonalds at the time so I took every chance I could to log hours. I was by far the youngest person on my crew and my supervisor was constantly surprised by my willingness to go where others felt uncomfortable.

The only time I legitimately felt my life was in danger was when I was cut off by a small pack of Dobermans that appeared between my car and the front door to a house. I backed up to the door keeping my eyes on them and knocked on the door till the owner reluctantly came out and put them in their kennel. They were pretty aggressive and my gut told me at the time was that they were purposely released out the backdoor to scare me off.


In 2019 I applied and was hired on for the 2020 census. Obviously the Covid19 Pandemic made it atypical and our start was pushed back several months however the administration at the time refused to give us anymore time to complete the count so there was a lot of urgency. The bureau has caught up with the times and issued us all iPhones with the necessary software to complete our canvasing and interviews when we encountered folks willing to speak.

My initial territory was in and around my neighborhood resulting in me speaking to people I personally knew. They were a little sheepish about their lack of compliance and had the excuses at the ready. The apartment complexes were the worst and I had the police called on me for soliciting. I pushed back on the officer and showed him the paperwork I received at training explaining in great detail that not only was it not soliciting but it's mandated in the constitution. In typical know-it-all cop fashion he told me (and my supervisor that I got on the line) that we were dead wrong but he didn't feel like challenging it in court so he let me go.

My favorite assignments were canvasing for derelict/unoccupied homes. This was infrequent the first couple of months in the Northland but when I was reassigned to the city center and Northeast it was a daily occurance. So many buildings were condemned, torn down or vacant that they needed someone in the field to confirm and ensure squatters weren't missed. We counted everyone even if they weren't legally there. I also participated in the SBE (Service Based Enumeration), TNSOLs (Targeted Non-Sheltered Outdoor Locations) and RSMFVs (Regularly Scheduled Mobile Food Vans). All of which were designed to help find those experiencing homelessness. Being active with Free Hot Soup and A Turning Point I wanted to do my part to make sure as many of these people were counted as possible. The 5 people I was paired with quickly made me the lead (despite my resistance) and we spent all night hunting down and interviewing the houseless population, some of which I knew personally.

There was a great deal of homework/training to prepare for this work especially the special assignments but that was all paid so I couldn't complain too much. I encountered lots of odd dwellings from a million dollar home that was abandoned except for some teenage squatters to the school bus wedged into an old garage that was turned into an apartment. The pay was descent and helped offset some home repair costs that crept up but I really enjoyed the work for what it was and for the sense of purpose it gave me. With any luck I will be able to participate again in 10 years.


8/16/2021

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