City Count Finds Sharp Increase In Local Homeless Population
The city’s annual homeless count revealed Friday that the number of homeless people on city streets increased by roughly one-third in the last year, and some experts said the problem may be even worse. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
There is no denying homelessness in New York City is on the rise. Not only is the number of homeless living in city shelters at an all-time high of about 39,000, but a new estimate released Friday shows the number of homeless on the street is up 34 percent over last year.
“The number of people experiencing homelessness in our city -- families with children, single adults in shelter -- now on our streets have all increased as a result of the very difficult economic times,” said Robert Hess of the Department of Homeless Services.
The estimate came from the city’s annual survey, when volunteers canvassed city streets and subways and yielded a total count this year of 3,111 homeless individuals, compared to 2,328 last year.
City officials point out the number is still lower than in previous years. They also say that street homelessness is down 29 percent since 2005, the first year the count was conducted, and that the count is relatively low when compared to the city’s population.
“One out of every 2,600-and-some New Yorkers experiences homelessness and ends up on our streets, compared to about one-in-100 in places like Los Angeles,” said Hess.
In response to this year’s increase, the city is planning some new initiatives, like collecting more detailed data on street homeless in order to better serve their needs and directing more individuals to faith-based homeless shelters. Officials are also setting aside some shelter beds specifically for those who may be more recently homeless,and unwilling to go through the usual intake process.
The DHS also said it added 409 new beds in the last year and will open two additional safe havens, in the form of smaller shelters, in the next couple of months.
Some city officials, like Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, believe more must be done.
In a statement, de Blasio said, “In the past, the city has pointed to the [Homeless Outreach Population Estimate] count as proof that their policies are working. Based on the increase reported today, I hope we can agree that we need to change our approach.”
Homeless advocates said the problem may be worse than advertised.
"Street homelessness is up, the shelter population is at an all-time high. I mean, this is really a crisis situation for New York City,” said Giselle Routhier of the Coalition for the Homeless.
Such a crisis will likely get worse before it gets better.