Over a dozen cars filled the parking lot of the Hollister Recreation Department where a table of census swag—t-shirts, pens, magnets, clips and fans—were set up next to streamers, chalk, window paint, poster boards and long blow horns. Attendees decorated their cars with the items and joined a census caravan that went through the westside of Hollister on June 27.
Children and adults tied streamers to cars or decorated car windows with messages raising awareness about the 2020 Census..
Caravan participant Esperanza Cruz and her sister Nelcy Cruz Pulido brought two cars full of people to the event. Esperanza said she decided to participate because she wants people to know they have to be counted in order to draw more aid to the community.
Having already completed the census herself, Esperanza said, “Filling out the census was easy and there are no compromising questions. It is safe and I tell everyone to make themselves count.”
Rigo Jimenez, Youth Alliance associate director of leadership and justice programs and the event’s lead organizer, got the idea of a census caravan from participating in one on June 7 hosted by the city of Greenfield and the Center for Community Advocacy based in Salinas. He said his participation there allowed him to learn best practices for organizing a successful caravan in Hollister.
Jimenez said the primary goal of the caravan is to encourage individuals who have not yet taken the census to take it before the Oct. 31 deadline..
“The census determines how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed in our community for programs like free school lunch, road work and repair, transportation, medical services, food vouchers and general benefits, among others,” Jimenez said. “The census also helps to determine the political boundaries of our region and our voice in congressional representation.”
The census caravan, led by a San Benito County Sheriff’s deputy escort, followed a predetermined route through census tracts 3, 4, and 7.01. The Census Bureau defines a census tract as small, relatively permanent statistical subdivisions of a county, uniquely designated in each county with a numeric code. Census tracts average 4,000 inhabitants with a minimum of 1,200 and maximum of 8,000.
Zigzagging in and out of neighborhoods in the west side of Hollister, Jimenez said, “The route was chosen based on the census tracts in Hollister that have some of the lowest self-response rates in San Benito County.” Participants including Vanessa Gonzales, field representative for State Senator Anna Caballero, were provided a map and turn by turn instructions.
As the caravan drove through neighborhoods, it drew the attention of families in their homes, many of which came out to see what all the noise was about and stood at their doorsteps to wave at the passersby.
Leslie Austin, chair of the San Benito County Democratic Party and San Benito County resident for over 30 years, drove in the caravan with her husband Wayne Norton, a candidate for District 2 county supervisor.
“There is political rhetoric that has made some of our residents fearful of some sort of retaliation for participating in the census,” Norton said in reference to the hard to reach population. “You don’t have to be a citizen. They won’t ask you if you are a citizen. It’s really important that we have a full and complete count.”
Jimenez said participating in the census was important because “people can ensure that they help to bring in an average of $2,000 per person, per year for the next 10 years to our community. Plus everyone counts! Every adult, child, and baby living in the United States, no matter their age, race, ethnic group, or citizenship status.”
Another census caravan is planned for July. To take part or for more information call the Youth Alliance Office at 831.636.2853, or email [email protected]youthall.org
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