Ensuring Every Oregonian is Counted in the 2020 Census


The buzz about the 2020 Census is building, but for some groups of people, census participation is more difficult. The U.S. Census Bureau has labeled these groups “hard-to-count,” and Oregon has an estimated 1 million people who fall into this category and require additional in-person contact in order to take the census. Reasons for this vary from access, to lack of a physical mailing address, to distrust of the government.

“A complete census count in 2020 is critical for our families, our communities, and our state,” said Esperanza Tervalon-Garrett, Campaign Manager of #WeCountOregon and CEO/founder of ​Dancing Hearts Consulting​, who has been awarded a contract for statewide outreach to hard-to-count Oregonians.

“The only way to ensure that Oregon has a just and equitable 2020 Census is to make sure every Oregonian is counted, and we receive the resources and political representation we deserve. Hard-to-count communities are the heart and soul of Oregon and #WeCountOregon is excited to ensure they are informed and mobilized to complete the 2020 Census,” said ​Tervalon-Garrett​.

#WeCountOregon is a campaign co-designed and co-implemented by ​community-based organizations​ that are committed to reaching hard-to-count Oregonians.

#WeCountOregon is a community-led effort working to ensure that every Oregonian — especially those considered hard-to-count — complete the 2020 Census. Hard-to-count communities include ​people of color,​ ​children under five​, renters, ​immigrants​, multiple-family homes​, ​Native tribal and urban communities​, ​disabled people​, and LGBTQIA​ 2 Spirit individuals.

The #WeCountOregon staff is made up entirely of Black and Indigenous Women who understand the unique challenges hard-to-count groups face.

The 2020 Census could mean another seat in Congress for Oregon, which provides a greater opportunity for our voices to be heard in Washington, D.C..

In addition to a possible 6th seat in Congress during reapportionment, Oregon stands to gain billions of dollars in federal funds that support critical programs Oregonians depend on like Medicaid, SNAP food assistance, WIC, Head Start, highway planning and construction, emergency services, healthcare centers, foster care, and Section 8 housing vouchers, just to name a few.

“We have millions of dollars on the line for services that many Oregonians depend on. And, let’s face it, a big undercount doesn’t change people’s needs for services, it just reduces the amount of federal dollars we have to resource them,” says Tervalon-Garret. “A complete census count is critical to Oregon over the next 10 years.”

Hard-to-count communities include Oregonians like Colton Allen, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease. He’s pictured here with his wife Tiffany and their daughter in Talent, Oregon.

The #WeCountOregon campaign is co-designed and co-implemented by ​POC-led, community-based organizations​ that are committed to reaching hard-to-count communities. These organizations include ​APANO​, ​Cat Action​, ​Causa​, ​East County Rising​, ​Euvalcree​, ​Forward Together​, ​Latino Network​, ​NAYA Family Center​, ​Oregon Futures Lab​, ​Our Oregon​, ​PAALF​, ​PCUN​ and ​Unite Oregon​.

“These organizations have existing relationships with the communities that we are hoping to inspire and engage to take the census,” said Precious Edmonds the Community Engagement & Partnerships Coordinator for #WeCountOregon.

“Relationships are founded in trust, and people are more inclined to trust the message when they trust the messenger. It also serves the campaign that these organizations have familiarity with these communities, which means there is more awareness of the concerns of the community,” said Edmonds.

Partner organizations have a Census Equity Coordinator who works directly with the #WeCountOregon campaign to lead field efforts and ensure that community allies and partners are engaged in the census.

“As the statewide Census Equity Coordinator for Unite Oregon, it has been such a pleasure to work with these incredible people from amazing organizations statewide in a coalition comprised of unprecedented numbers of POC leaders,” said Annie Naranjo-Rivera. “Already, this campaign is ground-breaking. This scale and type of outreach has never been done in Oregon. I am excited to see what is possible for us to do together!”

Perla Alvarez, #WeCountOregon’s Field Director is leading the Census Equity Coordinators (CEC) in hiring their paid field teams who will reach 200,000 individuals. Partners will draw volunteers from their base, networks, and staff to conduct outreach, as well. In addition, volunteers will support visibility and education activities, such as leading training courses developed by the #WeCountOregon campaign specifically for hard-to-count groups.

 PRecious Edmonds, the Community Engagement & Partnerships Coordinator for #WeCountOregon, addresses the Census Equity Coordinators.

“It is exciting to witness our CECs come into their power to lead the census work because they care and understand the importance of getting involved. They want to make sure that the most marginalized Oregonians get educated and participate in the census,” said Perla Alvarez.

“After the campaign, the 13 CECs will be highly skilled and trained to continue making a difference in Oregon and most importantly, Oregon will have the infrastructure and trained individuals to ensure that the 2030 Census is even more successful.”

Digital engagement is a large part of the #WeCountOregon outreach-strategy. The campaign is using a text-to-count tool to gather pledges to take the census ahead of the census forms being sent out. The campaign can then send reminders about important dates surrounding the census to those who have promised to fill out their forms.

Text “Oregon” to 33339 right now to see how it works. Communicating via SMS bridges a gap for many Oregonians that may be lacking internet service or just prefer using their mobile phone.

In past censuses, people of color, immigrants and LGBTQIA 2 Spirit individuals have gone uncounted — perpetuating systemic racism, undermining political representation, and underfunding resources we all use. Participating in the 2020 Census presents an opportunity for us to change that.

Our hard-to-count individuals are the heart and soul of Oregon. We are what makes Oregon a diverse and enriching place to live. Our unique perspectives and cultural offerings add depth to life in Oregon. By centering the focus of this census campaign on people of color and other marginalized groups, we are working to create a new narrative about who lives in Oregon, and what an Oregonian looks like.

To learn more about the #WeCountOregon’s outreach to hard-to-count communities visit wecountoregon.com.

About Author

Mandy Yeahpau is the Communications Director for #WeCountOregon. She is Native American (Comanche, Cherokee, and Tarahumara) and Latina. She was born and raised in Southern Oregon and has a background in journalism and digital media.

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