Fewer Homeless Living on NYC Streets

The number of homeless people on New York City streets declined 30 percent from last year, thanks to revamped agency policies, the city's Department of Homeless Services said Wednesday.

The agency said it estimated 2,328 homeless people on streets, public spaces and subways this year, down from 3,306 last year and 4,395 in 2005.

"This year's numbers prove that if you give us the time and we stay focused on partnership, we can achieve great results," Commissioner Robert Hess said.

Officials said the drop corresponds to an overhaul in the agency's approach, which includes new performance standards, expanded housing options and improved coordination with other city departments.

The city's estimate was from a street survey across New York's five boroughs conducted on a specified night. Volunteers looked for homeless people sleeping on the streets, and decoys were planted to test the accuracy of the head count.

But advocates for the homeless, while acknowledging some of the positive changes in approach, were skeptical that there were fewer street homeless and questioned the methodology of the survey used to make the estimate.

"The numbers released by the city today defy credibility and run counter to what New Yorkers observe every day on New York's streets," said Mary Brosnahan, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless.

"Looked at over a four-year period, the city is arguing it has cut street homelessness in half," she said. "Do New Yorkers really think there are half as many homeless people on our streets as four years ago?"