Written by: Director Robert Groves
Last week, I met with local officials and toured the damaged areas of Galveston, Texas, some 13 months after Hurricane Ike.
Many of us remember the scene from the Bolivar Peninsula, with only a few houses standing after the storm, and the videos of the wind damage throughout the island. Some housing units that I saw had been under 12 feet of water for one or two days.
In Galveston, we’re concerned about making sure our procedures are in place to count those who live there near Census Day, April 1, 2010. This commitment requires us to stay current with the changing renovation of structures and with people moving back into the area. It also requires us to get the message out that those residing in doubled up houses need to be counted where they live at the time the form is received, not where they want to live eventually.
Like other parts of the Gulf Coast, there are single-family structures and apartment buildings that are now uninhabitable (with broken windows and screens, broken furniture, mud-caked walls and moldy floors). But, Galveston shows all the signs of bouncing back. FEMA trailers, supplied by the Federal government for temporary housing, are still parked in the front yards of houses undergoing repair. However, city officials showed us how they’re disappearing gradually, block by block, as the neighborhood moves back. We saw apartment complexes with brand-new appliances and newly constructed interior walls, all painted and waiting for carpet. The supervisor hoped to have people in the unit by early January.
They’re going to make it, but officials are quite worried that the city will fall below the 50,000 population mark, a threshold for several funding programs. The Census Bureau must count the population living there around Census Day. To make sure we count everyone, we need to keep our list of housing units up to date. For some areas of the city, we’re hand-delivering questionnaires to inhabitable units close to Census Day. We’re expecting some living in the city will have just recently returned to their homes. We’ll be there to help welcome them back where they want to be.
For those not making it back in time for the 2010 Census, they should be counted where they’re living at that time. The country needs to update the statistical data on Galveston and other Gulf Coast areas during the decade so that their success and rebuilding can be reflected properly in federal statistics.