Survey Says Number of NYC’s Unsheltered Homeless Is Down, but Advocates Disagree

A federal survey that counts individuals sleeping on the streets, parks, and subways on a given winter night every year, found that there are two percent fewer unsheltered homeless individuals in New York City, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) announced this week.

The federally-mandated Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) survey, conducted this year on January 29, found that 3,588 individuals were on the streets that night, making it “the second year in a row that this point-in-time survey has shown a decrease,” a DHS statement says. The survey showed there were 3,675 unsheltered homeless individuals in 2018 and 3,892 in 2017.

But the federal HOPE survey has been largely criticized over the years, given its limitations, including the weather on the one night per year it is conducted. When temperatures drop, homeless individuals seek temporary shelter, so they are less likely to be on the streets, advocates say. This is something that DHS acknowledges in their HOPE survey reports. For instance, the survey also showed that homelessness in subways increased by 23 percent, likely due to colder temperatures on the night of the survey.