HOPE is DHS’ annual, one-night survey of individuals living on city streets.
The 2009 HOPE found that unsheltered homelessness had decreased 47 percent since 2005 and 30 percent since 2008. Although critics such as Coalition for the Homeless, a Manhattan based non-profit group, have questioned HOPE methodology, the estimate is a jewel in DHS’ crown.
Thousands of volunteers help perform HOPE; DHS deployed more than 3,000 volunteers to streets, parks and subways on January 25. Unsheltered homelessness has dropped 72 percent in the Bronx since 2005, a decease Hess called “spectacular.” Last year, the HOPE found 2,238 homeless in the city and 164 in the Bronx. Most were found in Manhattan and on the subway system.
“We have made tremendous progress in the Bronx,” Hess said. “We hope that the 2010 HOPE will show that we’ve maintained that progress or done even better.”
Hess attributed DHS’ success with street homelessness to an emphasis on homeless outreach. In the Bronx, the Bronx Works (formerly Citizens Advice Bureau) mobile Homeless Outreach Team helps homeless individuals obtain housing, benefits, drug and alcohol treatment, healthcare and counseling.
The team pays visits to homeless on the street, under bridges and in abandoned buildings. Ideally, it persuades the homeless to use The Living Room, a 24-hour drop-in center on Garrison Avenue in Hunts Point.
From The Living Room, they enter Safe Haven transitional housing and apply for permanent housing, The Living Room director Noel Concepcion said. Concepcion also thinks the HOPE will produce another street homeless decrease in the Bronx.
“On the street, I think you see [the decrease] from five or ten years ago,” he said.
Although the economic recession has pushed many more Bronx families into homeless shelters, it has had less effect on street homelessness. Most street homeless individuals are single adults. Many suffer from mental health and/or substance abuse issues.
HOPE volunteers canvassed areas where street homeless individuals are known to stay and a random sample of areas where street homeless individuals aren’t often found. Decoys – trained individuals posed as homeless individuals – were planted to gauge the accuracy of the estimate. The Police Department was on hand to assist volunteers throughout the HOPE.
Hess expects numbers of homeless families from the Bronx to increase for another six months to a year and expects the economic recession to knock some single adults onto the street soon.
Some Bronx leaders have argued that the borough shoulders more homeless shelters than it should, more than Brooklyn, Queens, State Island and Manhattan. But Bronx shelters boast fewer beds than there are homeless individuals from the borough, Hess said.
Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@c
©2010 Community News Group