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Street homeless people counted in New York

'25.01.2024'

Alina Prikhodko

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Hundreds of volunteers and outreach workers took to the streets, subways and parks of New York to begin the annual count of homeless people on the streets, reports Gothamist.

The annual spot count comes as a record number of people, including 68 migrants, are being held in city shelters. Unlike previous years, this year's count comes as housing and immigrant advocates warn of a rise in migrant homelessness as they face Mayor Eric Adams' restrictions on how long they can stay in one place.

“I'm interested to see if we see anything different today,” Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said when asked whether undocumented migrants could add to the total.

The survey is conducted every year at the same time - this is a requirement of the federal government. It aims to inform the city where to direct resources and funds to help homeless people not in shelters.

“When we provide services to people rather than expecting them to go somewhere, they are much more likely to want to take them because people are connected to communities,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Molly Wasow Park.

According to the city, there are 89 adults and children, including some migrants, in Department of Homeless Services shelters. That doesn't count the thousands of people who live in shelters run by other city agencies or the Adams administration's migrant shelter system.

Homeless count

From January 23 to 24, 1500 volunteers and 200 homeless outreach workers went out into the city's five boroughs in the rain and during code blues to conduct a random survey.

Issa Asiedo, a homeless outreach coordinator for BronxWorks, walked residential and commercial streets, peered under scaffolding and searched parks to count how many people had nowhere to sleep.

“I think this is a test of the services and resources that we have, right? If it works, then there should be fewer people. If not, then maybe we should try something else,” he noted.
Aciedo consulted printed maps of his area, and any person who appeared homeless to him was counted in the city's application.

On the subject: How to find shelter in New York during cold weather: a guide for migrants and homeless people

“If someone is lying in a blanket on the floor, sleeping on a bench or something like that, those are obvious cases where we know that someone is camping out somewhere,” the homeless outreach coordinator said. He looks for more subtle cases where he sees people staying in the same place for a long time. Some critics say that the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate HOPE count) has its limitations.

The study, whose results are being published in the summer, does not include homeless people who sleep in bank vestibules, fast food restaurants or emergency rooms, which homeless advocates say artificially lowers the numbers.

Unofficial count

Bonnie Mohan, Co-Founder and CEO Health and Housing Consortium, says her group conducted its own count, which is not included in the official HOPE study, to help paint a more complete picture. The group is counting the number of homeless people in emergency rooms.

“People usually move from place to place, they don’t stand in one place. So that’s a sign that they may have nowhere to go tonight.” Some critics say HOPE's homeless count has its limitations.

The study, whose results are being published in the summer, does not include homeless people who sleep in bank vestibules, fast food restaurants or emergency rooms, which homeless advocates say artificially lowers the numbers.

Bonnie Mohan, co-founder and executive director of the Health and Housing Consortium, says her group conducted its own count, which is not part of the official HOPE study, to help paint a more complete picture. The group is counting the number of homeless people in emergency rooms.

“If they weren’t in hospitals, they would most likely end up on the street and be counted,” she explained. “This highlights how hospitals serve as de facto shelters, especially during the colder months.” Mohan noted that her team hasn't done a count since 2020, when they counted 226 people across 30 hospitals in four boroughs.

 

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