The Town of Loxahatchee Groves’ Complete Count Committee met on Wednesday, Oct. 16 to organize plans and achieve a thorough accounting of all residents for the 2020 U.S. Census, although some residents of the community may be difficult to reach.
Attending members included co-chairs Marge Herzog and Simon Fernandez, Ken Johnson, Virginia Standish, Dr. Bill Louda, Mayor Robert Shorr, Mary McNicholas and Neil O’Neal. Also attending was U.S. Census representative Sandy Goodman and Assistant Town Manager Francine Ramaglia.
Goodman said that every person who is not counted means a loss to Palm Beach County of $1,600 per year for 10 years.
The biggest challenge for the town is accounting for migratory workers who may not have a permanent address but are eligible to be counted.
Shorr asked Goodman how to reach people who may live on a landowner’s property but do not have a separate address, and Goodman said the responsibility rests with the landowner.
“If the landowner is willing to and knows the people, he can fill out the census form with the concept that the perimeter of his property line is his house,” Goodman said. “Therefore, the people staying on his property can be reported as non-relatives on the census form.”
Louda asked if people being included must be a U.S. citizen, and Goodman said they do not, explaining that there is a survey that does a separate count that measures citizens versus non-citizens. “My whole census area has nothing to do with that,” Goodman said. “All that we do is count people.”
Ramaglia asked how members of the Complete County Committee could avoid having people afraid of them, and Goodman said there are news articles out there that are geared to suppressing a valid count.
“We should just ignore that noise and stick to the issue that everyone needs to be counted,” he said. “Unless you can get to a trusted voice, someone who people will trust, like that landowner who has people on his property, you’re not going to get people to respond.”
Herzog asked if there were any new members so she could appoint them to subcommittees, and Ramaglia said that Anita Kane was not present but had volunteered to chair an equestrian subcommittee. Jim Rockett, also not present, had volunteered to chair an agricultural subcommittee.
O’Neal volunteered to co-chair a business subcommittee, while Deirdre Krauss volunteered to be the point person for healthcare, and Irene Goltzené volunteered to head a civic and not-for-profit group.
“One of the things on the agenda is figure out how to do committees,” Herzog said, adding that the U.S. Census Bureau had included a timeline to follow.
Herzog asked where to find gatherings of senior citizens. “We’re trying to reach out to that population,” she said, explaining that many seniors in Loxahatchee Groves go to Young at Heart Club meetings in Royal Palm Beach, but it would be difficult to single out those who live in Loxahatchee Groves.
Herzog suggested that since Loxahatchee Groves is a small town, the committee should try a different approach, and Fernandez agreed.
“I think that our original idea on the first day, to take the lettered roads, make teams and that team can make sub-teams, and then we’ll have a support team for, let’s say, Spanish speaking, where you can say, ‘Hey, I need someone who speaks Spanish,’” Fernandez said. “It doesn’t mean that whoever went through North A [Road], everybody was home, but we’ll have an overlap.”
Standish said the numerous churches in town might be a viable source to reach residents, especially seniors and non-English speakers. Herzog said she had surveyed parishioners at Palms West Presbyterian Church, and they were divided between Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and The Acreage, with very few who actually live in Loxahatchee Groves.
Louda suggested mailers to residents with the message “do not be afraid to be counted in the census.” Goodman said the U.S. Census Bureau would begin advertising nationwide in January.
“It’s going to hit anyone who comes into contact with any kind of media,” he said. “But I think you have hit upon something that is critical, and that is the churches, because I remember saying that we need trusted voices to tell people what it’s about and why it’s important to them, and the most trusted of trusted voices is the faith-based community. Reaching out to them puts you in a good position because they know how to deliver a message.”
Goodman added that many of the churches in the seven states of the Atlanta Regional Census Center will be holding Census Sundays between March and April.
“I would encourage you strongly to make that a part of your outreach, particularly to get the churches involved,” he said.
Johnson said a wide array of sources would be needed to reach everyone. “I think we need to have posters made that we can take to all of our businesses,” he said. “We can also make posters to take to all of the churches.”
Fernandez said one of the biggest problems will be reaching people who do not have addresses.
“Whether we like to admit it or not, on a lot of properties here, there’s two or three trailers with many people living in it,” he said. “We must convince those people that we’re not the law, we’re not code enforcement, we’re just going to make sure that we can count them.”