Unsheltered Population In NYC Drops 5 Percent, Even As Homelessness Crisis Continues

A homeless man begs for donations outside a subway station in New York on February 4, 2015. New York may be famous abroad for
A homeless man begs for donations outside a subway station in New York on February 4, 2015. New York may be famous abroad for glitz, glamor and Park Avenue billionaires but America's biggest city has passed a grim milestone -- a record 60,000 people are homeless. In November, there were 60,352 homeless people in the city, including 25,000 children, up more than 10 percent on the 53,615 who were homeless in January 2014, according to the website for charity Coalition for the Homeless. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

The number of unsheltered New Yorkers fell by 5 percent during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first year in office, the city’s Department of Homeless Services announced Thursday.

There were 3,182 people sleeping on the city’s streets, in the subway or in other public areas this February during the annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate -- or HOPE count -- representing a 5 percent drop from the over 3,350 people counted in January of 2014.

The most significant drops occurred in the outer boroughs, a DHS spokeswoman told The Huffington Post. Only 20 homeless individuals were counted in Queens, a 92 percent drop from the 253 counted last year. The number in the Bronx dropped 64 percent, from 193 homeless individuals to 69, and in Staten Island the number fell by 31 percent, to 46 homeless individuals from the 67 counted last year.

“The HOPE Count provides valuable information in regards to the resources necessary to successfully combat street homelessness in New York City, and while we still have a long road ahead, I am heartened to see an overall reduction in our unsheltered populations over the past year,” DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor said in a statement. “We will continue to work across the city to assist individuals living on our streets, and utilize what we learned from this year’s count to allocate resources and target services in areas in which we saw increases.”

Over 3,000 volunteers took to the streets in February to take part in the HOPE count. While homeless advocacy groups have long questioned the methodology of the HOPE count, the tally is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to allocate federal funding for the city.

Despite the seemingly positive news, city records showed in December that there were a record-high 59,000 people sleeping in the city’s shelters each night, the highest level since the Great Depression. DHS told HuffPost Thursday that that number was now down to about 56,700.

De Blasio, who’s also made a push to bring more affordable housing to the city, announced Thursday that his administration is committing a total of $100 million in annual spending to combat homelessness.