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7314: Haitians fearing census numbers (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

 Posted at 7:29 a.m. EST Sunday, March 11, 2001
 Haitians fearing census numbers
Undercount could cause funds shortfall   BY JACQUELINE CHARLES

 Annette Petit-Frre sits in a chair in the waiting area of a
social-service agency in Little Haiti, slumping under the  burden of her
worries while waiting for basics, shelter and     food. She doesn't
remember getting a U.S. Census questionnaire  last year, and answering
the government's list of questions wasn't exactly high on her list of
``I thought it was something for citizens,'' said Petit-Frre, 46.
  Petit-Frre isn't alone. There are many like her throughout Miami's
Little Haiti neighborhood, and possibly thousands  throughout Miami-Dade
County, who went uncounted in the 2000 Census.  U.S. Commerce Secretary
Don Evans decided last week not  to adjust the 2000 Census data to
estimate people who  weren't counted -- mostly minorities, immigrants,
children  and the poor. He was following a recommendation from the
Census Bureau, which found conflicts in the numbers that   made it
impossible for the bureau to determine whether  adjusted numbers would
be more accurate than the initial  head count.
 Because federal agencies use census data to determine the  annual
distribution of more than $180 billion in grants to local governments,
South Florida officials fear the decision will  cost local programs some
federal aid. Preliminary census data suggest that undercounts occurred
in black, Hispanic and immigrant neighborhoods like Overtown, Wynwood
and Little Haiti in Miami-Dade. It's a fate that Haitian-American
activists tried to avoid. But despite all their radio ads, bumper
stickers and pep rallies to  get residents to fill out their forms and
let counters into their homes, early indications are that many people
were still missed. ``It's amazing,'' said Ludnel St.-Preux, executive
director of       the Haitian American Community Association of Dade
County, or HACAD, a nonprofit social-service agency in  Little Haiti.
``Just when you think you are not going to have  to deal with these
types of issues again, they keep coming  back.''
   St.-Preux and others have long contended that countless  Haitian
Americans, both legal and illegal immigrants, were  among the estimated
100,000 people not counted in the    1990 Census of Miami-Dade.

With news of another probable undercount, community  leaders are looking
for answers. Some place the blame on  the Census Bureau. Activists say
it did not heed early        warnings about how to proceed in Little
Haiti, a neighborhood of mostly poor, Haitian immigrants who suffer
from a language barrier and distrust of the government.
 James Holmes, regional director for the census in Atlanta,said this was
the first he had heard about concerns by the  Haitian community about
how the campaign was handled in
 If Miami gets less government grant money because of the undercount,
countless neighborhood projects will have to compete for a smaller pot
of money. And people like  Petit-Frre, an unemployed mother of two who
is 10 days  away from being evicted, will have even fewer places to
turn   for help. ``Census information is so critical for low-income
neighborhoods,'' said David Harder, executive director of the  Little
Haiti Housing Association. The group builds low-income, affordable
housing units and relies heavily on   federal community development
block grants in its quest to rid the area of substandard housing and
overgrown vacant  lots.``With having less money, there are fewer of
these projects  that can be done,'' said Harder, who notes that 70
percent of      the housing in the area is substandard and residents
pay  more than 50 percent of their income on it.  Social-service
officials say they don't know exactly how  much money is affected by the
undercount. But with census numbers lower than the real population, it's
harder for agencies to demonstrate the need for services like housing
vouchers, meals to the elderly and job training and employment
 ``If these people are not identified, you can't get the grants,'' said
Betty Sylvestre, program director at the Catholic  Charities-Pierre
Toussaint Center in Little Haiti.     Among the center's various
programs is a federally funded   free job training and employment
program. Sylvestre says  the center helps about 400 clients, mostly
Little Haiti  residents, on a quarterly basis. The $600,000 grant that
funds the program runs out in June, and the center will have to reapply
for new funding.Whether the program continues or not, Sylvestre said,
will be based on her ability to demonstrate a need. She says she can
only hope the numbers are there. Though evidence of Little Haiti's
poverty is apparent  throughout the neighborhood -- dilapidated
buildings,trash-filled lots, food lines -- it remains to be seen whether
it shows up in census data.


 The consensus throughout the community is that groups are  already
competing for scarce dollars, and an undercount will  mean less access
to services for the poor, especially  immigrants.  ``We did everything
we were asked, we initiated activities to     make sure people were
counted in Little Haiti, but there were   instances where the rules had
changed and we didn't know  anything about it,'' said Aude Sicard,
president of the  Women's Alliance of Broward and Miami-Dade.   ``It's
like we were behind on everything, playing catch-up,'' she said. ``We
feel the Census Bureau dropped the ball in  that area in terms of
reaching out to the Haitian community  and doing what we thought was
needed to be done. They did  not listen to us. We were totally
 In addition, the overall marketing campaign did not target the  Haitian
community, others said. ``People are not really aware of the different
issues that  affect our community and how you get in,'' said Danielle
Romer, executive director of Haitian Support Inc., which runs a 1-800
support line for Haitian immigrants. Romer, who at one point turned the
line into a census helpline, said she  gathered the names of 300
individuals who said they had not received a census form.
  ``I am surprised to hear these comments at this point in the
process,'' said Holmes, the regional director. ``My office did not have
any discussions with anyone about that. We had a  number of offices in
Miami-Dade County and I can't respond  to any conversations that
occurred between them.''