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City to count its homeless soon

With the mercury dipping to some of the lowest lows of the season, the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) will hit the streets - and subways and parks - on Monday January 28 for the sixth annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE 2008).
“It’s unacceptable for so many of our fellow New Yorkers to be living on the streets,” said DHS Commissioner Robert Hess, whose organization counted 186 individuals living unsheltered in Queens during last year’s survey of people living on city streets, in city parks, and in the subway system. The HOPE 2007 team documented 3,755 homeless individuals throughout the city, including 1,624 living in the subways.
After a brief training session at 10:30 p.m., teams of four or five volunteers led by experienced social service providers will disperse at midnight to assigned geographic areas throughout the city to begin the four-hour count of homeless individuals.
DHS hopes to have 2,500 volunteers - 1,000 more than are currently signed up - canvass the five boroughs, not only to acquire a tally of the homeless population, but also to offer assistance, such as placement in shelters, to those who need it.
“HOPE is not just about counting people or adding up numbers,” said Hess.
“HOPE is about reaching out to those men and women who most need our help.”
While HOPE 2008 teams will focus on areas identified as having homeless individuals, volunteers will also target a sampling of neighborhoods not known to be homeless bastions, in an effort to achieve the greatest accuracy possible.
As an added fail-safe, the DHS employs “decoys” - trained individuals who are positioned throughout survey vicinities to ensure all homeless people are accounted for and properly interviewed.
The federal Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) has praised the DHS for its statistically valid methodology, which seems to have helped reduce homelessness since the organization went citywide with HOPE four years ago; according to the HOPE 2007 survey, unsheltered homelessness in New York City decreased 15 percent from the 2005 statistics.
HOPE 2008 is part of “Uniting for Solutions Beyond Shelter,” Mayor Bloomberg’s five-year action plan to end chronic homelessness.
Hess emphasized that in just one night of volunteering, the citizens can help make a difference. The DHS urges people to call 3-1-1 or visit www.nyc.gov/dhs to volunteer for HOPE 2008.

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