Bloomberg Administration’s Far-Fetched Claims About Street Homelessness

Yesterday, the New York City Department of Homeless Service released the results of its annual – and annually disputed – HOPE survey of street homelessness, and this year the City’s claims were met by extraordinary skepticism.

City officials claimed that, despite the worsening economic recession, the number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping on streets or in the subway system had fallen 30 percent from last year. They also claimed that the street homeless population was 47 percent lower than that in 2005.

Mary Brosnahan, the Coalition’s executive director, responded to the City’s claims this way: “The numbers released by the City today defy credibility and run counter to what New Yorkers observe every day on New York’s streets….Do New Yorkers really think there are half as many homeless people on our streets as four years ago?” (The full text of the Coalition’s statement is below.)

Many news organizations reported on the City’s street homelessness estimate, and many of the news reports captured the widespread skepticism about the incredible claims, including the Associated Press and WNYC radio. The New York Times’ City Room blog, which had a thorough report, quoted a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which mandates that cities nationwide produce street homelessness estimates as a requirement for Federal funding. The HUD official described the estimates as “point-in-time snapshot counts” and added, “They’re really just a glimpse at homelessness.”

COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS STATEMENT ON RESULTS OF NEW YORK COUNT OF STREET HOMELESS

New York, March 4, 2009 – “The numbers released by the City today defy credibility and run counter to what New Yorkers observe every day on New York’s streets.

The Bloomberg administration is claiming that there is the same number of homeless people in New York City as in San Diego – a city with one sixth of New York’s population.

Looked at over a four year period the city is arguing it has cut street homelessness in half. Do New Yorkers really think there are half as many homeless people on our streets as four years ago?

The methodology of the HOPE count and its reliance on a questionable statistical model have long been debated and now we know why.

What’s clear is this: tonight thousands of New Yorkers will sleep on our city’s streets, and as the economy continues to collapse that number will only increase.

This is the wrong time for New York City to be moving forward with plans to cut off access to emergency shelter by closing drop-in centers, eliminating shelter beds in houses of worship throughout the city and relocating the front door of the shelter system from the center of street homelessness in midtown Manhattan to the Bedford-Atlantic Armory in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.”