Census IE volunteers building trust through personal stories

Sharing what the Census means to people personally has helped bridge trust in hard to count populations, coordinators say

Photo CCAEJ:   CCAEJ volunteer Tania Gonzales helping a resident fill out a pledge card during an educational and job forum in Jurupa Valley on February 9, 2020. Census IE—the coalition of nonprofit and community based organizations within San Bernardino and Riverside counties—is currently helping working class families, undocumented residents, military veterans, and formerly incarcereted residents receive information about the upcoming Census count.
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With a bag full of pledge cards and informational material, Census promotora Azucena Solorio is working hard to make sure everyone is considered for the upcoming decennial count.

Solorio, along with other parents and community volunteers, is canvassing neighborhoods in Riverside County and tabling at community events across the Inland Empire to inform residents about the importance of Census 2020. The key to convincing people to participate in the count is sharing what makes it personal for you, explains Solorio. 

Photo ICUC: Inland Congregations United for Change youth leader Angela overlooks Bishop Gerald Barnes as he fills a census pledge card. Bishop Barnes will be supporting census outreach and education in all 94 catholic parishes within the San Bernardino Diocese.

“I find that people relate more to the importance of the Census when you share your personal story,” said Solorio in Spanish. “For me, the Census means having more resources for my family. Building trust among our own communities is what’s going to lead us to a complete and accurate count.”

Many agree with Solorio’s notion of trust building for better results. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the Inland Empire is among the hardest-to-count regions in California. According to Census data, nearly one in four households across the region didn’t send back their Census questionnaire, which is a large concern for regional leaders looking to improve social and economic conditions for their constituents.

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Census IE—the coalition of nonprofit and community based organizations within San Bernardino and Riverside counties—was formed to address improve results in hard-to-count populations. All groups involved are currently helping working class families, undocumented residents, military veterans, and formerly incarcerated residents receive advocacy support and resources. 

For example, the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), conducts outreach for the Census through door to door knocking, presentations and community events. Recently, they held an event in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau, Census IE, Senator Richard Roth, Asssemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, Starting Over Inc., NALEO Educational Fund and others to provide information about the count and offer employment opportunities for residents in nearby Jurupa Valley.

“We wanted to make this event community oriented and child friendly,” shared CCAEJ’s Census Field Coordinator Brenda Huerta. “We find that holding these kinds of events encourages more community member participation, which is ultimately our goal.”

Another group, the Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC), has found that talking about the Census to churchgoers is a great way of building trust and awareness about the count. Many of the people that belong to congregations in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties are immigrants and people of color, said ICUC Youth Civic Engagement Coordinator Miguel Rivera.

“Nine out of ten of people who fill out our pledge cards end up asking more questions about the Census,” said Rivera. “The congregations are spaces where the community feels safe, which makes it more effective for us to convey the importance of the Census.”

To Jurupa Valley resident and community leader Delia Castillo, a more robust, accurate Census count means securing funding for school programs that support low income youth.

“I am participating in the count because I believe it is important to have those resources,” she continued. “What we do now will determine how bright of a future we want our children and our families to have.”

For more information, visit CensusIE.org.

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