Survey Says Homeless Rate Decreasing in NYC

March 4, 2009 Updated: March 5, 2009

New York—According to a new study by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), there are fewer homeless people in New York City these days.

The HOPE survey—a yearly head count of the city’s homeless across all five boroughs that is conducted by the DHS—has found that levels of homelessness in the city have decreased by 30 percent since last year, and are down roughly 50 percent from 2005.

DHS Commissioner Robert V. Hess attributes the drop to better coordination and tighter accountability within city agencies.

He said, “We have brought services curbside, and in doing so, placed thousands of the most vulnerable New Yorkers into housing. We will continue to work hard each day to move more individuals from the streets to housing.”

The HOPE survey is recognized nationally for its accuracy in counting the homeless population in a given area. Its methodology includes using decoys to ensure that all 2,000 volunteer surveyors are being diligent in their efforts.

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs acknowledges that New Yorkers have been becoming so used to seeing homeless people that there is a certain numbness in regard to the problem. But she stresses the urgency of finding shelter for those who—for whatever reason—have been unable to come by it on their own.

“Street homelessness is too often considered a fixture of city life and that is unacceptable,” said Gibbs.

“That is why we work hard each day to develop innovative ways to tackle some of our most complicated urban challenges like poverty and homelessness, while also improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods. With the increased knowledge and real data we receive each year through HOPE and targeted interventions, we’re making real progress in our work,” she added.

One benchmark of improved services has been the ability to place homeless people in permanent housing. This is the new criterion used by the DHS to calibrate effective service provided to a given client. This is a higher bar for the city to reach, but it provides a more realistic goal and more accountability for the publicly funded agency.