Community Conversations: Census concerns for neighborhoods in need

Community Conversations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A community activist is raising concerns about the low number of homes that have filled out their census in Knox County. She fears the area won’t get the federal funding for services in our area for years to come.

“We have got to get this done. We are essentially trying to do a census in six weeks. We lost five months with COVID,” Dr. Vivian Underwood Shipe says.

Whether collecting warm scarves for the homeless or food for the hungry, Shipe doesn’t shy away from standing up for those who are in need.

“Truly, we are only as great as the least of us,” she said. “We really fight to make sure they have a voice at the table.”

Shipe is the founder of a local charity called, I AM the Voice of the Voiceless. Her current passion is making sure every community is counted in this year’s census, especially underserved communities.

“There are a lot of folks that are afraid to do the census. You have those of the Hispanic community who are afraid of ICE. You have those in the Black community that really think that you are, Black and white, matter of fact, they don’t want you to know their business,” Shipe says.

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed down much of the United States, the 2020 census campaign took a big hit. The months volunteers would have spent canvassing neighborhoods were instead spent in lockdown.

“My fear is that they are not going to get the money that they need,” Snipe said. “You know that $675 billion dollars per year is in a portion and once they have your number it’s like a piece of pie. It is set aside for that zip code. That money is there should they need it.”

Over the last few months, Shipe has rallied Knoxville communities at events to turn in household census forms and not miss out on their share of funding — money for infrastructure, representation in the nations’ capital, schools and more.

“When you look at your schools, one of the ‘ah-ha’ moments we’ve been able to give to young parents when we are talking about the census is that you have that child that is 5, so that means in the next 10 years that child will be 15,” she said. “You need good schools for your elementary and your middle school.”

As of Sept. 2, 2020, Knox County‘s census response is at 64%.

Within that, some of the lowest response rates are among these ZIP codes:

  • 37902 in the Old City/ Downtown area – 47%
  • 37916 in the University of Tennessee neighborhood – 47%
  • 37915 in the Morningside community of East Knoxville – 49%

Look up your county’s response rate here: https://2020census.gov/en/response-rates/self-response.html.

“It’s going to take everyone of us to push this through cause come midnight Sept. 30th,” she said. “That’s it come 2030.”

You can fill out the census online here: https://2020census.gov/en.html.

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