Homelessness 2020 Census

I'm thinking about requesting a custom tabulation for a possible project on homelessness.  For this project I will need a tabulation with a detailed group quarters category. . The 2010 Decennial Census SF-1 has such a tabulation: PCT 21 GROUP QUARTERS POPULATION BY SEX BY AGE BY GROUP QUARTERS TYPE.

This table has Emergency and transitional shelters (with sleeping facilities) for people experiencing homelessness (701)

What I would like to do is add some other variables to the tabulation, for example race to get Age x Sex x Race for people in homeless shelters. Having Ethnicity would be good as well. These are all the variables on the 2020 census form. I will need to negotiate with the Disclosure Review Board about the smallest geography that they will use to produce the table. I would then use SAE to produce a "synthetic population" at the census tract level using ACS 5 year tables. There are a lot of technical issues to be overcome with this approach.

The 2020 SF-1 file should be out soon and there will be an upcoming opportunity to request custom tables using the 2020 census data.


I know that you have worked on this problem.  Any observations or suggestions are welcomed.



  • Would the HUD Point-in-time homelessness survey be a good resource and possible substitute:


    I believe this data would cover people who are entirely unsheltered and more likely missed by the decennial census.

  • Dear Cliff,

    I like to think of the HUD Point-in-time (PIT) count and the Decennial Census count as complimentary.  I believe that the Decennial Census counts people sleeping on the street, During the winter when it is dark first thing in the morning in Boston I would take a shortcut from the subway to work at the hospital (MGH). There is a building on an alley with an overhang/arcade by the Post office. There was always a gentleman sleeping under blankets.  Even when it was snowing.   I'm sure that he was counted in the PIT count. There are also tent encampments around Boston. Those people are counted for the Decennial Census. and the HUD PIT count.  I think that the Decennial Census is pretty good when counting homeless people in over night shelters.  One advantage is that the Decennial Census counts everybody where as the HUD PIT only counts people in participating communities. In the Boston area that is only Boston and Cambridge -- your "home town." The Census has group quarters (701)

    Emergency and Transitional Shelters (with Sleeping Facilities) for People Experiencing Homelessness: Facilities where people experiencing homelessness stay overnight. These include:
    1) Shelters that operate on a first-come, first-serve basis where people must leave in the morning and have no guaranteed bed for the next night. 2) Shelters where people know that they have a bed for a specified period of time (even if they leave the building every day).
    3) Shelters that provide temporary shelter during extremely cold weather (such as churches). This category does not include shelters that operate only in the event of a natural
    Examples are emergency and transitional shelters; missions;hotels and motels used to shelter people experiencing homelessness; shelters for children who are runaways, neglected or experiencing homelessness; and similar places known to have people experiencing homelessness.

    Type Codes 702 704 706 Soup Kitchens, Regularly Scheduled Mobile Food Vans, and Targeted Non-Sheltered Outdoor Locations:

    Includes soup kitchens that offer meals organized as food service lines or bag or box lunches for people experiencing homelessness; street locations where mobile food vans regularly stop to provide food to people experiencing homelessness; and targeted non sheltered outdoor locations where people experiencing homelessness live, without paying to stay. This would also include people staying in pre identified car, RV, and tent encampments. Targeted non sheltered outdoor locations must have a specific location description; for example, "the Brooklyn Bridge at the corner of Bristol Drive," "the 700 block of Taylor Street behind the old warehouse," or the address of the parking lot being utilized.