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PR- 075-08
March 4, 2008


City and MTA Unveil ‘Give Real Change’ Public Education Campaign to Help the Homeless

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Department of Homeless Services (DHS) Commissioner Robert V. Hess today announced that street homelessness in New York City is down 12 percent since last year and 25 percent since 2005 - the first year the City conducted the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate, or HOPE. The HOPE survey is conducted annually in January to produce an accurate estimate of the total number of unsheltered individuals on the streets and in the subway system. The Mayor and Commissioner were joined by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs, MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot "Lee" Sander, former New York Jets running back Curtis Martin, who is collaborating with the City on efforts to reduce homelessness, and representatives from City agencies and homeless services non-profit providers. The City and the MTA also unveiled a new public education campaign, called 'Give Real Change', which reminds New Yorkers that the best way to help homeless individuals on the streets or in subways is to call 311 to have an outreach team sent to help.

"Tackling homelessness in its many forms has been a priority for our Administration - and I'm pleased to announce further progress in our efforts to help people leave the streets for a better life," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The good news, from both humanitarian and quality of life perspectives, is that a quarter fewer New Yorkers live on city streets today than when we started measuring in 2005. We will continue to bring innovation and focused management attention to this longstanding urban challenge."

"The annual HOPE count not only provides an estimate of the street homelessness population but it also enables us to evaluate and improve our approach to services," said Commissioner Hess. "Used along with other information, HOPE informs the development of programs and partnerships that have produced the results we see today-nearly 1,100 fewer New Yorkers living on our streets."

Behind the Numbers: City Points to Successful Strategies

The City credits the decline in street homelessness to stepped-up strategies undertaken over the last two years. These include the Homeless Encampments Initiative, through which DHS and more than a dozen city and state agencies partnered to clear 70 targeted encampments and "hot spots" throughout the five boroughs, and the NYC Street to Home outreach program-a major overhaul of the City's approach to outreach efforts citywide. In addition, the introduction of innovative housing options like Safe Havens and a partnership with the MTA positively impacted this year's results.

From Street to Home

NYC Street to Home, provides for the first time, a citywide approach to street outreach. NYC Street to Home further changes DHS contracting by combining a new outreach approach with increased accountability for providers. Instead of many contracts being managed by multiple city agencies, for the first time, DHS maintains oversight for all outreach contracts, with one non-profit provider responsible for each borough, ensuring a higher level of coordination. NYC Street to Home moves away from conventional outreach methods that focus on the number of times a team contacts particular clients to one that emphasizes placing the longest-term or most chronically homeless individuals into permanent housing. Providers work independently and share best practices and areas of concern at monthly StreetStat meetings, held by DHS to ensure teams have the necessary resources. In its six short months, NYC Street to Home providers have collectively placed 450 individuals with some of the longest histories-sometimes decades-of street homelessness into permanent or transitional housing.

DHS works closely with its sister agency, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), to provide clinical expertise and guidance on the contracts. The providers are: Goddard Riverside Community Center (Manhattan Consortium), Manhattan; Common Ground Community, Brooklyn/Queens; Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Bronx; and Project Hospitality, Staten Island.

A Safe Haven from the Street

In November 2006, New York City piloted its first Safe Haven, in partnership with the Bowery Residents Committee (BRC), a non-profit service provider, and with the support of a grant from The Betty and Norman F. Levy Foundation made to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. Safe Havens offer a safe, barrier-free temporary housing option for street homeless individuals who otherwise would not come off the streets. The size and atmosphere of Safe Havens, which tend to be smaller and have few restrictions, are an innovative alternative for those individuals who choose not to come into shelter. In its first year, the BRC Safe Haven partnership had served 52 clients with an average length of street homelessness of seven and a half years. Seventeen of these clients-some who were chronically homeless for more than 20 years-have moved into permanent homes of their own.
Based on the success of the pilot program, Mayor Bloomberg provided funding in the City's budget to replicate the Safe Haven model citywide. There are currently more than 200 Safe Haven beds across the City at five sites, and by the end of 2008 there will be more than 500 beds. The new Safe Havens will follow the BRC pilot program's approach, reserving capacity for the hardest-to-reach street homeless individuals who consistently have rejected placement in the shelter system, and who instead, opt to stay on the streets.

City-MTA Partnership

Many homeless individuals seen on the streets also spend time in the MTA's transit systems. The MTA Connections Outreach Program has provided services to homeless individuals on subways, and in stations and terminals for many years. In 2007, the City and the MTA embarked on a partnership to better coordinate efforts on the streets and in the subways. As a result of this partnership, homelessness is down by 30 percent in the subways from last year.

The City-MTA collaboration includes improved access to housing, such as Safe Haven beds, and other resources; MTA Connections' participation in monthly StreetStat meetings to promote sharing of best practices and learning across all outreach providers; and an ongoing initiative targeting Penn Station, one of the highest density transit hubs in terms of homelessness. This ongoing collaboration has included coordinated efforts with NYPD, MTA PD, MTA agency staff, Amtrak, and Midtown Community Court to conduct outreach to the homeless at Penn Station and NYC Transit terminal stations.

"Through the MTA Connections Outreach Program, the MTA has demonstrated its commitment to addressing homelessness on our system. These professional services provided by BRC, offer the homeless a better alternative to living on the street or subway. The collaboration with the City has improved the services MTA Connections Outreach can provide its clients," said MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot G. Sander. "The results have been very positive for homeless individuals and the riding public."
'Give Real Change' Public Education Campaign

To further reduce street homelessness, Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Hess, and MTA Executive Director Sander also unveiled a new public education ad campaign called 'Give Real Change', which is currently going up in subway cars and stations around the city. The spots inform subway riders that the best way to help homeless individuals on the streets or subways is to call 311 to have an outreach team sent to help. The campaign emphasizes that New Yorkers can make a difference by joining the efforts already underway to house the homeless.

The MTA provided premium subway squares and one-sheet posters in subway cars and stations for this campaign, which should extend into the spring.
By the Numbers

New York City has an estimated 3,306 unsheltered individuals according to HOPE 2008-a ratio of 1 unsheltered homeless individual to 2,485* of the general city population. San Francisco has a 1 in 269 ratio; followed by Seattle with 1 in 295; Miami-Dade County with 1 in 1,741; and Chicago with 1 in 1,798.

There were an estimated 1,263 unsheltered individuals in Manhattan; 279 in the Bronx; 336 in Brooklyn; 135 in Queens; and 152 in Staten Island for a total of 2,165 on the surface (meaning streets and parks). There were 1,141 unsheltered individuals in the subways. Additionally, the Single Adult Shelter Census showed a decline by 19 percent from 8,687 in 2005 to 6,998 in 2008.

HOPE volunteers-this year 1,700 strong-walked a total of 8,291 miles and surveyed more than 1,000 subway cars. The HOPE survey is nationally recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as the national standard for this type of homeless count.

*This represents a list of the largest U.S. cities with a similar street count methodology for which DHS was able to confirm a recent census.


Stu Loeser/Dawn Walker   (212) 788-2958

Linda Bazerjian/Eric Deutsch   (Department of Homeless Services )
(212) 361-7973

Jeremy Soffin (MTA)   (212) 878-7145

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