PRESS RELEASE

July 5, 2017

Contact: Isaac McGinn (mcginni@hra.nyc.gov, o: 929-221-5564 c: 646-946-9667)

 

NYC ENHANCES HOME-STAT STREET OUTREACH EFFORTS AMID RISE IN STREET HOMELESS POPULATION

Outreach teams' by-name list of street homeless individuals consistent with point-in-time estimate

NEW YORK—The Department of Homeless Services today announced that the annual federally mandated Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) street homeless survey conducted on February 6, 2017 found that 3,892 homeless individuals were on the streets of New York that night, 39 percent more than last year but 11 percent fewer than the first count in 2005. This point-in-time estimate reflects what the City's HOME-STAT outreach teams—doubled in size last year—have been seeing on the ground every day.

As of February 2017, there were 1,737 currently street homeless individuals known to HOME-STAT teams and on the City’s first-ever comprehensive "by-name" list, which is central to HOME-STAT’s individual-by-individual approach to addressing street homelessness. Teams continue to engage and build relationships with these individuals to support their transition off the street. Additionally, at that time, there were 1,901 "prospective clients" or individuals known to street outreach teams that the teams were working to assess, including determining whether these individuals are homeless. Today, outreach teams are actively engaging more than 2,000 known homeless individuals and are working to connect with roughly 1,500 prospective clients to assess their living situations, demonstrating success outreach teams have had in meeting the need citywide—reaching, engaging, and building relationships with more and more individuals on the streets to ultimately connect them with City services.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to ending homelessness. With a dedicated not-for-profit provider for each borough (the Manhattan Outreach Consortium, led by CUCS, in Manhattan; Breaking Ground in Brooklyn and Queens; BronxWorks in the Bronx; and Project Hospitality on Staten Island), HOME-STAT outreach teams working around the clock across the five boroughs helped 748 New Yorkers living on the streets transition indoors in the first year of the program. Helping street homeless New Yorkers transition off the street and accept services like shelter does not happen overnight. It can take many months—5 months on average—to establish the trust that will encourage street homeless New Yorkers to accept assistance and come indoors. This means the work that hundreds of HOME-STAT outreach staff began over the past several months has likely not yet yielded results in many cases.

Additionally, this year’s count was conducted during a warm winter in New York City and amid a continued housing affordability crisis here and across the nation, with economic factors, including rising rents outpacing incomes, continuing to drive homelessness. This year, it was 40 degrees on the night the survey was conducted, with less than an inch of snowfall in the preceding 30 days. By contrast, in 2016, it was 28 degrees on the night the survey was conducted, with more than 30 inches of snowfall in the preceding 30 days. On the economic front, between 2005 and 2015, median household income in New York City increased by just 4.8% in real dollars while the median rent increased by 18.3% in real dollars. At the same time, New York City experienced a net loss of over 150,000 rent-stabilized units citywide between 1994 and 2012. Results of point-in-time counts from other major urban areas in the U.S. underscore the economic factors driving homelessness and the ways in which homelessness continues to be a nationwide challenge. In Los Angeles, the same point-in-time survey found 42,828 homeless individuals living on the streets, a 23-percent increase, and in Seattle, 5,485 homeless individuals were found living on the streets, up 900 from last year.

"This year's HOPE Count confirms what our street outreach teams are seeing daily. We remain undeterred in our efforts to bring New Yorkers off the streets," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "We learned from our first year of HOME-STAT that our daily counting detracted from our ability to deliver services, which is why we have revamped our outreach program and refocused our teams on delivering care to high-need areas. While we know we have a lot more work to do, we are continuing to open more street homeless facilities and provide more programs for New Yorkers we are helping transition from the street to permanent housing."

"Every day we are committed to helping homeless New Yorkers come in off the streets and we’re squarely focused on continuing to improve our outreach efforts," said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. "After evaluating the first year of HOME-STAT, the most comprehensive street homeless outreach effort in the nation, we’re making enhancements that will enable our outreach teams to reach more New Yorkers living on the street, many of whom have fallen through numerous safety nets and are often resistant to accepting services. It can take hundreds of contacts over many months to bring homeless New Yorkers indoors, with teams out 24/7/365, proactively engaging until we make the connection that will help them transition off the streets. Last year, persistent and compassionate outreach teams helped 748 homeless New Yorkers off the streets citywide, thanks to new investments and a doubling of the size of those teams. There's no question we've got more to do, but the changes we're making to intensify these efforts coupled with the extraordinary dedication of our outreach teams will help us build on last year's progress and turn the tide on homelessness citywide."

Between launching in March 2016 and February of this year, HOME-STAT outreach teams helped 748 homeless individuals living on the streets transition indoors. This May, after an analysis of progress made during year one, the City announced enhancements to the HOME-STAT program that will improve delivery of services by more effectively utilizing canvassers to supplement outreach efforts, including redeploying canvassers to conduct comprehensive targeted analyses in hot spot areas where there are many homeless New Yorkers and intensifying partnerships with City agencies to better reach more individuals in previously-under-engaged areas like parks, libraries, and hospitals.

These enhancements will enable outreach staff to move away from a focus on daily counting toward a more comprehensive approach prioritizing engagement and improving current proactive street homeless outreach efforts, including canvassing, immediate response, and case-by-case integration and management initiatives. The reforms include:

  1. The creation and implementation of intensive canvassing teams, which will perform targeted analyses of areas of high-concentration of street homelessness across the five boroughs, facilitating a more comprehensive mapping and understanding of challenging hotspots;
  2. Strengthened and expanded multi-agency collaboration across the five boroughs, including with our NYPD Crisis Outreach and Support Unit, local precincts, Parks, hospitals, and public libraries to conduct intensified outreach with a community-based approach to assisting more people to move from the street; and
  3. Performing a comprehensive analysis of panhandlers, many of whom are not homeless, to better map and understand the challenge of panhandling and develop new, more effective interventions

As the City redoubles efforts to turn the tide on homelessness, including street homelessness, increasing capacity dedicated to serving street homeless New Yorkers is crucial. Drop-in centers and safe haven programs are low-barrier services specifically targeted toward street homeless individuals, who may be resistant to accepting other services, including traditional shelters. These facilities are often the first step toward bringing street homeless New Yorkers indoors. In addition to redoubling and enhancing proactive street outreach efforts, the City has brought on 350 beds dedicated to serving street homeless New Yorkers and will be bringing another 360 online by the end of the year. The first 500 units of the Mayor's 15,000 supportive housing plan will also be coming online this year to further increase resources to address street homelessness.

All of these changes will serve to optimize canvassing and outreach strategy to most effectively engage street homeless New Yorkers and encourage them to accept services, move indoors off the streets, and ultimately transition into permanent housing. The City and its service provider partners who coordinate outreach efforts across the five boroughs are united in a shared commitment to helping more and more New Yorkers off the streets.

"We must be fully committed to our neighbors in need," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. "My administration is working closely with DSS to reach street homeless individuals in our borough in order to connect them with the services and support they need to build more secure futures. Every one of us has a role we can play to combat our homelessness crisis with compassion and care."

"With an increase in the number of homeless on our streets, we've got new strategies for helping homeless off our streets and into shelters. We've built the model that is working on the Upper East Side where we've identified homeless individuals by name, worked with non-profit providers in the neighborhood to understand individual needs, and facilitated multi-agency collaboration to get homeless the help they need to get off the streets. Thanks to this model a resident who was alleged to spit on people and had been homeless for years is getting the help she needs," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Thank you to Mayor de Blasio and Department of Social Services Commissioner Steve Banks for their leadership and collaboration in helping every New Yorker in need."

"Breaking Ground's outreach teams are on the streets 24/7 in Brooklyn, Queens and a portion of Manhattan, engaging with people who are experiencing homelessness and working to connect them with services and housing," said Brenda Rosen, President and CEO, Breaking Ground. "We are working closely with the City to expand our successful Safe Haven transitional housing resources in Brooklyn and open a new drop-in center in Queens. And we have more than 1,500 new units of permanent supportive and affordable housing units in our pipeline. In partnership with the City and other nonprofits, we are doing more than ever, on multiple fronts, to expand housing opportunities for the most vulnerable street homeless New Yorkers. We believe that everyone deserves a home, and we are committed to helping our neighbors in need come indoors so they can rebuild and restore their lives."

"In the past year, we have seen a greater need for additional Safe Haven capacity to respond to the needs of the ever more visible homeless individuals with whom we work," said Muzzy Rosenblatt, President and CEO, Bowery Residents Committee (BRC). . "The good news is they want to come in, but need places to go that meet their needs. The great news is that more Safe Havens are on the way. As the creator of the Safe Haven model, BRC applauds the de Blasio Administration's decision to open additional Safe Haven residences, a resource that has been proven effective at motivating the unsheltered homeless to come indoors, and to progress successfully toward greater stability in health and housing. And we all call on all communities of our city to work with us to site and support these residences of excellence in care and support for our homeless neighbors."

"CUCS remains committed to reducing street homelessness and the effects it has on homeless individuals and our communities," said Tony Hannigan, President and CEO, CUCS. "By treating the social, mental and medical care issues at the heart of chronic homelessness, we will continue to break down the barriers of isolation that keep thousands of men and women living on New York City streets."

"Although we are disappointed in the increase in the HOPE count estimate, we are not surprised by this outcome based on the unseasonably warm weather in an especially mild winter," said Scott Autwarter, Assistant Executive Director, BronxWorks. "At the same time, we are confident that the number of unsheltered street homeless individuals in the Bronx has been significantly reduced since the first HOPE Count in 2005, which tallied 587 individuals, in comparison with this year's 255 estimate. The increases in the unsheltered homeless population across all five boroughs illustrate the need for more Safe Haven programs and an increased investment in permanent supportive housing for the street homeless. The new Safe Haven and supportive housing capacity coming online this year will help us build on our progress."

"This Administration has poured an unprecedented amount of strategy and resources toward ending homelessness, putting 'boots on the ground' across the five boroughs, including Staten Island, but we need everyone at the table to make affordable and supportive housing a reality in our borough," said Terry Troia, Executive Director, Project Hospitality. "We are working to establish the first supportive housing units on Staten Island and to increase affordable housing to create paths to permanent housing for homeless Staten Islanders. As affordable housing opportunities shrink and gentrification expands, people end up homeless. Our job is to both provide shelter and services to Staten Islanders experiencing homelessness so they can get back on their feet, but we also have to address root causes, like housing and affordability, to figure out the permanent solutions that prevent homeless and ultimately save lives for the long haul."

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About the City’s HOME-STAT program:

The most comprehensive street outreach program in the nation, HOME-STAT (Homeless Outreach & Mobile Engagement Street Action Teams) focuses on connecting individuals living on the street, who each have a unique path to the streets, with the unique combination of services that will enable them to transition off the streets. All street homeless outreach teams have licensed clinicians who work with clients on the streets. In addition to receiving on-going case management, people are assessed for immediate risk/crisis during each encounter. The teams also have psychiatrists who perform psychiatric evaluations on the streets and thereby help us understand and better meet the individual needs of each street homeless New Yorker. These clinicians and psychiatrists help our outreach teams connect with street homeless individuals who may be difficult to engage. Many have fallen through available safety nets, and experience trauma and challenges, including mental health and substance use challenges that may make outreach more complicated. Accepting outreach efforts, including services that will help homeless New Yorkers transition indoors from the streets, is voluntary, but we remain undeterred in our efforts to engage them proactively and aggressively, and offering assistance and services, until we make the connection that will help them transition off the streets. Our teams continue to reach-out to these New Yorkers to offer services and help them come indoors. HOME-STAT also provides aftercare services, continuing to work with individuals who receive placements to ensure that they receive the support they need to remain in housing and off of the street.