A few years ago, I lived in the university district while I was going to college. Like many of us, I made decisions on where I lived in order to find the cheapest rent possible. This resulted in my living in an apartment where there were definitely more people there than legally allowed.

If I was living in that household today, I would need to fill out the census form accurately despite knowing there were too many of us living in that apartment. The census is coming to each of us via email or in-person in March. Like me when I was living in the U-District, many of us and our families are living in apartments with more people than is legally allowed, are living in groups with mixed immigration statuses, and in many different situations. It is completely understandable; we are in a housing affordability crisis, and our families often do what we must to survive.

The census form will ask for the number of people living in the residence, any additional people, the type of residence, and a phone number. It will also ask household members name, age, race, gender, ethnicity, and their relationship to the head of house if they do not normally live at the residence.

It is important for our community to answer these questions honestly, even if we have too many people living in one residence. Our specific information that we share with the census department cannot be shared with law enforcement, immigration officials, a landlord, or anybody else by federal law. That information is turned into generalized data that can be tracked at the block, census tract, city, county, or state level. It cannot be traced to individual apartments or homes.

Obviously, it is important that we all use this information to educate ourselves, so we fill out the census appropriately. But it is also important that we talk to our immediate families, extended families, friends, neighbors, and others about filling out the census. They might need assurance that their information will be kept confidential or help filling out the form. Regardless, we need to all we can to ensure our community is counted in this census.

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