The Department of Homeless Services on Tuesday night and yesterday morning conducted its 10th annual survey to count the number of homeless on the city’s streets. From 12:15 a.m. to 4 a.m., around 3,000 volunteers canvassed the five boroughs block by block, surveying people about whether or not they had somewhere to sleep for the night. Teams of city employees remained on standby, ready to answer volunteers’ calls should a person request to be taken to a shelter.
It’s unclear when the results of the count will be released.
Tuesday’s bitter cold led DHS to declare a Code Blue for the survey, adjusting some protocols from previous years. If a person did not appear to be adequately protected from the cold and refused to go to a shelter, DHS attorney Tonie Baez told volunteers, canvassers or DHS outreach teams should call 911 for NYPD officers to intervene.
The weather added extra emotional heft to the experience, said first-time volunteer Tyree Meadows, 20, a West Point cadet who drove down with several classmates for the evening. “It was eye-opening,” he said of his shift in the area around Grand Central Station. “Walking around, I realized how bad it would really be to live on the streets at this time.”
For six-time volunteer Julie Jimenez, that’s the value of the survey: raising awareness.
“Rent is so expensive, it could be any of us,” said Jimenez, 37, a social work student from Glendale. “I think a lot of people would say they’re one paycheck away from homelessness.”
Last year’s survey showed 3,180 New Yorkers living on the streets, a slight drop from 2012 and a significant decrease from the first survey in 2005, when 4,395 people were without shelter.