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Service-Based Enumeration

Service-Based Enumeration provides an opportunity for people without conventional housing and people who may be experiencing homelessness to be counted in the census. Through this process, people who are not included in counts of traditional household-type living arrangements or group quarters are enumerated where they stay or receive services or at predetermined outdoor locations.



The Census Bureau is no longer collecting responses to the 2020 Census. This page provided details for specific operations during the count.

Where Is Service-Based Enumeration Conducted?

In Service-Based Enumeration, the Census Bureau counts people who receive services at the following types of locations:

  • Emergency and transitional shelters (with sleeping facilities) where people who may be experiencing homelessness stay overnight. These include shelters that operate on a first-come, first-served basis, where people must leave in the morning and have no guaranteed bed for the next night; shelters where people know that they have a bed for a specified period of time, even if they leave the building every day; and shelters that provide temporary refuge during extreme weather.
  • Soup kitchens that provide meals, distributed in food service lines or bag or box lunches, primarily to people who may be experiencing homelessness.
  • Regularly scheduled mobile food van stops that provide meals at regularly scheduled stops and that primarily serve people who may be experiencing homelessness.
  • Pre-identified non-sheltered outdoor locations where people experiencing homelessness live without paying.


How Does Service-Based Enumeration Work?

Beginning in February 2020, the Census Bureau will contact facility administrators to obtain important identifying information about their facilities to assist with the enumeration process. During this time, a date and time will be set for the facility administrator to conduct the enumeration, and a preferred enumeration method will be selected.

Please visit Group Quarters Advance Contact for more detailed information.

In Service-Based Enumeration, a Census Bureau representative conducts an in-person interview with each person who is served or staying at a given service-based location on Census Day. Each interview takes approximately 10 minutes.

Shelters may also choose paper response data collection as their enumeration method. In this case, a Census Bureau representative meets with the group quarters administrator to obtain a paper listing of census response data for each person who is served or staying at the facility on Census Day.

GQE Fact Sheet

Service-Based Enumeration Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet for the Service-Based Enumeration operation.

Download PDF

Group Quarters Enumeration Brochure

Service-Based Enumeration Brochure

Informational brochure for the SBE operation.

SBE Poster

Service-Based Enumeration Posters

Informational posters for the Service-Based Enumeration operation.

Paper Response Data Collection Template

Paper Response Data Collection Template

Sample template for the Paper Response Data Collection enumeration method.

Download PDF

eResponse Letter

Informational Copy of the Individual Census Questionnaire

Informational copies of the 2020 Group Quarters Individual Census Questionnaires used for enumeration.