Through the end of April, people who stop by the Gathering Point Community Council (GPCC) at 9050 South Ashland Avenue on Wednesdays can receive training on the 2020 Census. On Thursday evenings, visitors to the Chatham Community Watch Safety Center can learn about the census in another program at 7909 South Champlain Avenue.

The GPCC is a nonprofit based in Auburn Gresham and founded by pastor, businessman, and former 6th Ward aldermanic candidate Richard Wooten that focuses on public safety and mentorship. In January, the organization received $25,000 from Cook County in the county’s first round of census outreach grants. 

In a phone interview, Wooten said it is particularly important that Black residents, whose population has decreased by 350,000 within the city of Chicago since the 1980s, are accurately counted by the census so adequate funding is ensured for their communities. Each individual not counted equates to a loss of $1,400 in federal funding for the city—which means “the communities will suffer because the city budget and the state budget cannot provide for that number of people,” Wooten said.

“There’s organizations out here that are funded through grants that rely on additional money to be coming in, not only from local government but from federal government, to actually survive,” said Wooten, listing as an example the South Shore Drill Team, which most recently performed at the NBA All-Star Game halftime show in February. Schools, health care, and infrastructure are also impacted by these funding sources.

During training sessions at Gathering Point, visitors can learn how to become a census captain or block manager, or just learn how to fill out their census forms before receiving instructions from the Census Bureau in mid-March. Wooten said that between the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, which Gathering Point’s census training serves, and Chatham, where similar census outreach programs are held by the Greater Chatham Alliance (another nonprofit run by Wooten), he hopes to reach 6,000 residents. Both organizations are recruiting and training up to twenty census captains, who are paid to talk about the importance of the census at various community meetings, and up to ten times as many block managers, who are paid to distribute census materials to other residents.

Like many local organizations that received state, county, or city funding, Gathering Point is an organization that could leverage its existing relationship with residents in its neighborhood toward census outreach. In this case, the census training is built on the existing structure of Gathering Point’s neighborhood watch program.

 Wooten expressed special interest in recruiting young people to trainings, in the hopes of getting a full and accurate count of the younger population in these neighborhoods. “Chatham has been identified as one of the prominent middle-class African American neighborhoods,” he said, but that community is now aging. “We have to get a younger generation more engaged and understand that the torch is now in their hands.”

Census captain and block manager training:

Gathering Point Community Council, 9050 S. Ashland Ave. Wednesdays, 11am–1pm. (773) 260-0260.

Chatham Community Watch Safety Center, 7909 S. Champlain Ave. Thursdays, 6pm–8pm.

The Weekly’s reporting on the 2020 Census is supported by a grant from the McCormick Foundation, administered by the Chicago Independent Media Alliance.

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Tammy Xu is a contributing editor to the Weekly. She last wrote about 2020 Census outreach efforts in Chinatown.

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