The Salvation Army, one of the biggest U.S. charities, says it will keep the doors to more than 500 of its soup kitchens closed to government workers counting homeless people for the census, the Associated Press reports.
The group says the presence of census-takers would frighten homeless people away from services they desperately need.
The Salvation Army’s stance could hurt the Census Bureau’s already difficult job of counting the homeless population, AP reports.
The agency depends on advocacy groups, shelters and soup kitchens to assist in the effort.
“The legal counsel has s aid that we will drive people away who desperately need to be fed,” Lt. Col. Tom Jones, national community relations and development secretary for the Salvation Army, told the AP. “We’ve been in the business of feeding people over 125 years.
The charity group is concerned about the Census tally of the homeless, he said, “but obviously our main concern is to feed people.”
The first forms will be delivered in early March, and households are asked to mail them back to the Census Bureau.
Counting the homeless is more difficult because they don’t have permanent mailing addresses for the surveys.