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Street Homeless Numbers Soar

By Jill Colvin | April 28, 2012 1:39pm
A homeless man walks down the street on June 20, 2011 in New York City.
A homeless man walks down the street on June 20, 2011 in New York City.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

NEW YORK — The number of homeless men and women sleeping on the streets has soared a whopping 23 percent this year, according to numbers released by the city late Friday.

The Department of Homeless Services’ annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) survey counted 3,262 people on the streets during its one-night count — 614 more than the 2,648 people counted on the streets last year.

In Manhattan, the total spiked by 15 percent, while The Bronx and Brooklyn  saw 47 and 52 percent jumps. The totals, however, were down in Staten Island and Queens, where the numbers dropped by 23 and 16 percent. More than 1,600 people were counted sleeping in the subways, up from 1,275 last year.

The numbers confirm trends reported by homeless advocates across the city, who have repeatedly warned the numbers were at a crisis point.

"Today’s release of the city’s street homeless survey estimates a 23 percent increase in street homelessness from last year and confirms what we already know —  there are more and more New Yorkers sleeping on the streets and in the subway system each night," said Patrick Markee, a senior policy analyst at Coalition for the Homeless, who believes the total is almost certainly much higher because of people missed by the count.

On Jan. 30, nearly 3,000 volunteers fanned out across the city, with the aim of counting every single man or woman sleeping on the street. The city also placed decoys, who posed as homeless people, to test how thorough the count has been.

“Unfortunately this year, the number went up somewhat from past years,” said Homeless Commissioner Seth Diamond, who said he could not provide any immediate explanation of why the numbers were up so high.

He said the city’s outreach teams, which try to help people move into housing, will be stepping up their efforts in light of the new numbers. The city is also developing new affordable, permanent housing options to help move people out of the shelter system and create more room, he said.

Still, Diamond stressed that the numbers represent a sharp decline from when the survey first started in 2005 and said the proportion of New York's residents living on the streets — 1 in 2,506 — still remains one of the lowest for a major city nationwide.