Emergency Assistance banking on census

Published 12:22 pm Monday, March 1, 2010

An accurate census count will play a crucial role in helping those in Shelby County affected by short-term crises, said the director of Shelby County Emergency Assistance.

The department aids county residents facing unexpected crises who need short-term help with food, housing, utility bills, medical and dental needs and money management, according to Shelby Emergency Assistance Director Karen Pendleton.

Because the department uses census data to identify areas of the county with the highest levels of poverty and homelessness, obtaining an accurate 2010 census count is “very important” for the agency, Pendleton said.

“One thing we use very frequently from the 2000 census are the maps that show the highest pockets of poverty in the county,” she said. “Right now, that is primarily in the Montevallo and Wilton communities and down towards Calera.

“I am interested to see if that trend will continue this year, and see if it has changed at all,” Pendleton added.

By identifying the county’s demographics, the census will help the department determine where and how it will dispense aid and money throughout the county.

“For us, the biggest thing we get from the census is that snapshot picture of the county,” Pendleton said. “That will help us see where we need to direct our funding.

“We are encouraging all of our clients to fill out that census form and return it,” Pendleton added.

The 2010 census will also help determine how much state and federal funding will be directed toward Shelby Emergency Assistance.

“The funding we get from (the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs) will definitely be affected by that census information,” Pendleton said. “We also get some federal funding, and the census numbers will all play into that.”