October 21, 2016
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Chicago Groups Work To Increase Census Returns In "Hot Tracts"

More than half the residents in parts of Springfield’s east and north sides did not send in questionnaires for the 2000 Census.

A decade later, community groups and leaders are hitting these areas with a blitz of forums, rallies, door-to-door visits and other events to boost participation levels for the latest decennial count.

“Historically, it’s been low-income or minority populations that tend to be undercounted. So those are the areas we’re looking to target,” said Ann Locke of the Springfield Urban League.

The Urban League is one member of Springfield’s Complete Count Committee. So far, the committee’s efforts are working, members say.

“I can honestly say every door we’ve knocked on, over 80 to 90 percent of people say they’ve completed it or are going to complete it,” said Teresa Haley, first vice president of the Springfield branch of the NAACP, another Complete Count participant.


National Census Day

Thursday was National Census Day – a reference date the Census Bureau uses for returning completed questionnaires. By late afternoon, about 64 percent of Springfield residents receiving forms had mailed them back, a 24 percent increase from last Friday.

So far, the national mail-in rate is 54 percent.

More census outreach efforts are planned for Springfield’s “hot tracts,” three census tracts that had non-response rates of more than 50 percent during the 2000 Census.

Two tracts are on the city’s east side: one is roughly between 10th and 19th streets and Edwards Street and South Grand Avenue; the other extends from 19th Street as far east as Dirksen Parkway, as far north as Moffat Avenue and south to Old Rochester Road.

The third tract is on the near north end, an area roughly bordered by Madison Street, Converse Street, Third Street and 10th and 15th Streets.

The Complete Count Committee is lining up speakers for March to the Mailbox Day on April 10, when volunteers will canvass the hot tracts and encourage those who haven’t filled out their forms to send them in.


Lack of trust

A lack of trust is the biggest obstacle in low-turnout areas, Locke said.

Haley agreed.

“I think people don’t trust people they don’t know or don’t feel comfortable with and then don’t want to share their information,” she said.

The Complete Count Committee has worked with churches and businesses to get information to people. On March 20, the NAACP, Urban League and other volunteers canvassed the hot tracts, helping residents with general questions about the forms and giving away goodies, such as t-shirts and coloring books, to people who completed their questionnaires.

“The more you hear it, the more likely you are to respond in a positive way,” Haley said.

Locke says the Complete Count Committee is emphasizing three major points.

“One is that the census is easy… this is a shorter form than the older people have been used to getting,” she said of the form’s 10 questions. “The second point is that the information is confidential, that the information cannot be shared with any other agency, whether it be local, state or federal.”

And finally, the committee stresses how census responses dictate the amount of funding allotted to an area.

“We let people know the cuts we’re having with the schools and with some of the pre-K programs, they’re affected by the census directly. How many hospitals will be built and where they’ll be built is affected by the census,” Locke said.

“I think we’ve done a good job of getting that info out.”


Amanda Reavy can be reached at 788-1525.


Complete Count Committee

Agencies participating in Springfield’s Complete Count Committee: The Springfield Urban League, NAACP, Area Agency on Aging, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Ministerial Alliance of Springfield, Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Springfield Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission and the Sangamon County Community Resource Center.


Assistance centers

The U.S. Census Bureau has set up Questionnaire Assistance Centers to help peoplecomplete their census forms. Springfield locations include:

*Senior Services of Central Illinois, 701 West Mason St. Hours are 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

*City of Springfield, 800 E Monroe St. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Thursday.

*Springfield Community Federation, 501 S. 13th St. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

*Springfield Urban League, Inc., 100 N. 11th St. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

To find a Questionnaire Assistance Center near you, visit http://2010.census.gov


On the Web: A map of the “hot tract” areas: http://extras.sj-r.com/r/censusrate


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