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Census Takers Find Shelter Door Shut to Them With PM-Census-Homeless Rdp Bjt

March 21, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Census Bureau’s effort to get an accurate count of the number of homeless people living in the District of Columbia has gone well according to officials, but the process will have to be carried over because of cold weather.

Spokeswoman Pauline Lichtman-Panzer said today that low temperatures made it difficult for federal enumerators to locate a lot of homeless people who should be counted and that the count would resume Wednesday.

″We really didn’t expect that the temperatures would be so low,″ she said. ″Our enumerators said that caused many more persons to seek refuge in city or private shelters. We’ll be back on the streets (Wednesday) and will hopefully get better numbers.″

Although the National Weather Service said temperatures were only four degrees below the normal 38 degree reading overnight, it was far below the sunny, 80-degree-plus afternoons the area had last week.

Lichtman-Panzer said that the canvassers were welcomed at most shelter locations they visited during the survey period, but that wasn’t the case at the Capitol Hill shelter operated by the Community for Creative Non-Violence, whose leader, Mitch Snyder, refused to let census takers inside.

Snyder, who recently fasted for nine days in protest of proposed reductions in the city government’s homeless-aid budget, denounced the federal effort Tuesday night.

″Homeless people are very resourceful,″ he said. ″They have to be to survive on the streets. I doubt that the census takers will be going down every alley in the city, looking into every shanty and crawl space. These people should be allowed to have their dignity and not be disturbed in the middle of the night to accommodate government grandstanding. ″

Snyder met the census takers outside of the shelter operated by the Community for Creative Non-Violence and turned over approximately 80 census forms that he said had been completed. He had previously announced that no enumerators would be allowed in the building.

″We need to create more shelter space and more affordable housing to get these people off the streets,″ Snyder said. ″All the Census Bureau is doing is putting on a show for the media by sending these teams of counters out on the streets.″

″You can’t use this census with any degree of legitimacy,″ he said. ″Politicians can use these figures to say anything that they want them to - mainly that the problem of homelessness isn’t as bad as the American people have been made to believe because there’s no way that you can legitimately count how many homeless people that are in this city or in this country.″

Valerie Lobban, a district office manager with the Census Bureau, said Snyder’s actions were not representative of the receptions that census counters had received at other Washington shelters. She said the process had reportedly been going without difficulty.

The District of Columbia government estimates there are 7,500 homeless people in the nation’s capital, up more than 50 percent from 1982 levels.

Wylie Williams, the district’s deputy mayor for economic development, said the count was important because ″only when we know how many homeless there are can improvements be made in the delivery of services.″

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