NHPR's Rewind: Counting the Homeless

Aug 11, 2016

This August, NHPR’s Natasha Haverty and Jack Rodolico have been working on a series of stories covering issues that homeless New Hampshire residents are currently facing. Their work sheds light on aspects of life as a homeless New Hampshire citizen that many non-homeless residents don’t often witness. Similarly, Clayton Higgins of Concord got to witness homelessness from a different perspective when he joined a team of about 100 New Hampshire residents collecting data on the homeless population for the Census Bureau in 1990.

In March of 1990, the United States Census Bureau launched their first ever attempt at quantifying and categorizing the homeless in the country. Volunteer data collectors underwent training—crew leaders receiving three days of training, collectors receiving one—on methods of approaching homeless citizens and procedures for collecting information, in preparation for the count. Concord resident Clayton Higgins was among a team of volunteers assigned to collect information from people at shelters. Kathy McLaughlan spoke to him about the experience, misconceptions he held before volunteering, and what he ultimately took away from the experience.

Though Higgins felt the night was a success, he also thought that more would need to be done in order to address the situation of the homeless, which he described as “many, many faceted.” He claimed that simply counting the homeless was a start, but in order to gain a better picture of the state of homelessness in New Hampshire and across the country, many other components and contributors would have to be accounted for.