By Charles Sercombe
There’s some more troubling news about the Census and Hamtramck.
Last week, we reported on the Hamtramck Census forms having Detroit listed as the address. Census officials say that while the address line on the form may indeed say Detroit, the reference bar above the address line identifies the form as coming from Hamtramck.
Still, having Detroit on the address line to each household shocked local officials who feared residents would toss the form out, thinking it was good only for Detroit.
The latest ripple occurred on Wednesday when the Detroit Free Press reported that only 7 percent of the Census forms mailed to Detroit and Hamtramck homes have so far been returned. The story, however, does not say where that figure comes from.
Toine Murphy of the Detroit Census office, who has been working with the Hamtramck Census committee, did not return a call to explain where the 7 percent return figure came from.
Virginia Skrzyniarz, the chairman of the Hamtramck Complete Count Committee, said she is not aware of the return rate, but said the Free Press story was a concern. She said a major challenge facing Hamtramck is that many residents don’t speak English or have a limited understanding of it.
“They have no idea what the Census is,” Skrzyniarz said.
And that ignorance of the Census is also true for some of the elderly who have never paid attention to the forms, Skrzyniarz said.
Skrzyniarz said she has been visiting with students enrolled in the public schools’ English as a Second Language program to spread the word about the Census. Upcoming promotional campaigns include “wallpapering” the former Shopper’s World building and another building on Jos. Campau with Census posters.
Census representatives are also stationed at Peoples State Bank, Peoples Community Services and the Piast Institute. Residents are encouraged to stop by these offices if they have questions or need help in filling out the forms.
What’s at stake for Hamtramck and every community is that federal financial aid is tied to how many people are officially counted in the Census. The more people who fill out the form means more money for the city.
In the last Census count in the year 2000, city officials aggressively encouraged residents to fill out the Census form. Volunteers went door-to-door to make sure the forms were filled out. The effort paid off. Hamtramck’s population count jumped from 18,000 to 23,000.
Census officials have told The Review that outside of meeting with the public at special events and recruiting volunteers, there will be no advertising campaign with this newspaper. Instead, said a media placement representative hired by the Census Bureau, an advertising campaign will be directed toward publications serving the Arab-American communities.
Hamtramck has many ethnic communities, and the public schools report that over 20 languages are spoken here.
Residents have until April 30 to return the forms. By law, residents are required to fill out the forms or face a possible $100 fine.
Some residents have reported they have not yet received their forms.