The city conducts a “count” of street homeless people every year, mobilizing hundreds of volunteers to hit the streets of all five boroughs. But we’ve always been critical of this count, which is conducted on a freezing cold night and is full of methodological flaws seemingly set up to ensure a low-ball estimate that will let the city pretend the problem is being fixed.
In fact, according to this policy paper by the New York City Criminal Justice Agency, while the HOPE Count found 3,180 homeless people on the street in 2013, nearly 6,300 different street homeless people arrested in NYC that same year!
Our perspective was included in the New York Post:
Homeless members of the Picture the Homeless advocacy group blasted the methods as unreliable.
Jazmin Berges also said she “got counted on the sidewalk outside of Harlem Hospital, but tons of homeless people were sleeping in the ER and they didn’t get counted.”
“I was on the train, and no one counted us,” said Ousmane Dramae. “A count like this is not a good use of city resources. They’re focusing energy on the wrong problem. They should be focused on creating housing, and counting vacant property. They’re just going to use the HOPE count to find out where we are, so they can send more cops to harass us. Yesterday I had a cop on 125th Street tell me ‘I get paid to watch you.'”
“Doing it on the coldest night of the year, they’ll never get an accurate count,” said PTH member Patrick Byer. “But they don’t want to get an accurate count. They want to sweep us under the rug. Counting the homeless doesn’t help the homeless. They should count vacant buildings and lots instead, because those aren’t trying to hide. Vacant properties don’t have to stress out over cops running them off the block every hour.”
“The city is trying to make it look like they’re doing something,” said PTH member Jerome McCoy. “But the problem they’re fixing isn’t homelessness – it’s the appearance of homelessness. They just want things to look good. If they really wanted to fix the problem, they’d put us someplace permanent. An apartment. It’d cost a lot less for them to pay my rent than it does for them to keep me in the shelter where I am.”
“No one talked to me,” said PTH member Fabian Cancel, speaking in Spanish. “And even if they had, would they speak my language? There’s a lot of homeless people who only speak Spanish, or Chinese, or French. How will they count us? How will they understand our situation? We’re human beings, and we’re suffering. Everywhere we lay our head, someone is trying to run us off.”
“I was part of the ‘Shadow Count,’ and we spent all night out there and no one counted us,” said PTH member Pedro Cabrera. “We were in Hunt’s Point, by the Brueckner, freezing our butts off from 11PM to 6AM. The organizers of the ‘Shadow Count’ gave us a sheet of paper in case the cops messed with us, because they know that the police are always running homeless people off.”