The number of homeless people sleeping on New York City streets and subways is higher than city officials’ estimate, said a report published on Tuesday by the Coalition for the Homeless
The report shows the shabby state of the city’s shelters is in part to blame and cites city data showing that from May 2020 — when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a 12-month overnight closure of the subways to kick out unsheltered New Yorkers — to January, 9231 homeless people accepted transportation from end-of-line subway stations to shelters.
That’s significantly higher than the city’s official count, which last winter estimated New York’s homeless population at 2376.
“Everyone should take the city’s numbers with a grain of salt,” said Jaqueline Simone, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group that also serves as the official monitor of the city’s shelter system.
“Even if the city’s numbers were accurate, that is still an exceptionally large number of our neighbors without housing.”
The report also points to data showing homeless people are far less likely to be helped by the city’s congregate shelters than they are by “Safe Haven” beds, which offer better services, smaller rooms and do not have curfews.
According to the report, 24% of the people taken from the subways to congregate shelters from May 2020 to January stayed long-term — compared to 63% of those taken to Safe Haven sites, according to the report.
The report said that’s clear evidence the city needs to quickly expand the number of Safe Haven locations, which are sometimes in hotels and offer short-term lodging for homeless people.
There are roughly 2500 of those beds in the city, and the Coalition for the Homeless wants that figure to grow by at least 3,000.
The report further highlights bureaucratic barriers that keep homeless people from getting into permanent housing, like sobriety requirements, credit score checks and time-consuming document checks.