Volunteers combed the city Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, in an attempt to count the number of people sleeping on city streets and subways.
It’s an annual ritual called the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate, or the HOPE count, which dates back to 2005. It’s conducted by the city in order to provide the federal government with estimates of the city’s street homeless population.
The results of the point in time census count are expected in the spring or early summer.
In 2021, the first COVID-19 era count, the city identified 2,376 homeless people, a major drop from previous years. City officials and advocates cautioned the low numbers were likely due to the fact that volunteers weren’t allowed to participate due to pandemic restrictions, resulting in far fewer people outside able to count. There had also a push by the city to move people on the streets reluctant to go into congregate shelters into hotel rooms during the early months of the pandemic.
By last year, the city found 3,439 people living on the streets and subways, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels.
The HOPE count is a regular subject of criticism by advocates, who point out that it takes place during the coldest time of the year, when the fewest people are outdoors. Volunteers can miss people riding the trains, taking shelter in emergency rooms, 24-hour fast food joints or bank vestibules.